- New crop of England Under 20s back in camp after JWC-winning summer
- Lancaster, Rowntree and Farrell lead sessions at Surrey Sports Park
Nick Walshe has hailed the increasing cohesion across the England Rugby set-up after senior coaches Stuart Lancaster, Graham Rowntree and Andy Farrell visited the first Under 20 mini-camp of the season in Guildford.
Head coach Walshe, who led his side to their maiden Junior World Championship win this summer, presided over a three-day meet for the new-look squad at Surrey Sports Park last week.
And after such ground-breaking success last term – which also saw a Six Nations title for Jack Clifford’s men thanks to a 28-15 defeat of Wales in March – an unmistakeable feel-good factor surrounding the age-group has continued.
Indeed, Walshe began by praising the manner in which more experienced players, such as Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Scott Wilson and Callum Braley, have guided their peers.
“We’ve had less time together to allow the lads to play at the weekend and in the A League,” he said. “We’ve got another one in October too, so this one has been really short and sharp.
Photo: RFU Archive
“The boys have come in and trained really well – it’s a new group, so they are getting to know each other and getting to know us as the management. I’m really pleased overall.
“There are a few guys back [for a second season in the Under 20s], which is good. They’ve won two competitions last year, and it is those guys are naturally leading.
“From the first year they are in the Under 20s to the second, they change quite dramatically mentally. They grow up. We have quite a lot of young guys as well so it is important for them to bring the others through.
“Some of the newer faces are a little bit quiet in this first camp – you expect that, it’s a bit like being back at school.”
Moving to the wholehearted involvement of Lancaster, Rowntree and Farrell – as well as the collective philosophy their presence encouraged – Walshe was just as enthusiastic.
“Stuart wants the Under 18s, us and the Saxons very closely aligned, on the same page and with the same goal – a successful England senior team, but being successful in your own right too. That’s fantastic.
“[On Thursday] Stuart came in and presented to the boys, setting the tone, saying what it is like to represent England and explaining the senior team’s goals and how we fit into that.
“Graham worked with the forwards alongside Ian Peel and Faz worked with the backs and myself in the first part of the session. Faz and Wig then took the main defence and breakdown part of the main second session.
Photo: RFU Archive
“It was great, because not only are those guys rugby legends, they’re also the senior coaches. It’s important for our guys to realise they are being watched and actually could be close to the senior team.”
After being named in the Saxons EPS, pacey, powerful Exeter Chiefs winger Jack Nowell is one member of the JWC-winning crop to see his Under 20 exploits rewarded.
Centre Sam Hill has also started the Cheifs last two Aviva Premiership fixtures, with Gloucester Rugby lock Elliott Stooke also earning a place – and scoring a crucial try – in this weekend’s pulsating 26-24 triumph against Northampton Saints.
But as Walshe insisted, this individual progress at senior level has been an inevitable bi-product of hugely impressive team displays over The Channel.
“What we achieved in the summer has really propelled the guys and has given the clubs confidence that they can perform under pressure,” he finished.
“It’s fantastic that Nowellsy is in the Saxons. There’s also Elliott Stooke and Sam Hill, who has started Exeter’s last two games and has been very, very good.
“[Exeter fly half] Henry Slade’s getting more and more game-time, too. [Harlequins No. 8] Jack Clifford is getting close. Scotty Wilson [Newcastle Falcons] and Anthony Watson [Bath Rugby] are with us this year and they’re getting Premiership action already.
“It’s great, these guys are coming through and that is how it should be – the bigger the U20s get, hopefully the closer they get to their Premiership line-ups and the senior side. The transition becomes seamless.”