Jun 03, 2019
Duo to start World Rugby U20 Championship opener
Saracens Academy duo Joel Kpoku and Manu Vunipola will start England Under-20s’ World Rugby U20 Championship opener against Ireland.
The tournament begins on Tuesday 4th June in Argentina with Steve Bates’ side taking on their Irish counterparts at Club De Rugby Ateneo Inmaculada, Santa Fe (kick-off 19H30 BST).
England reached the final in 2018, suffering defeat to winners France. Kpoku featured in every match of last season’s competition while it will be a first U20 Championship for fly-half Vunipola.
Both players have had impressive campaigns at club level, making their senior Saracens debuts and first Gallagher Premiership outings.
Kpoku will add to his 11 international caps while Vunipola has featured four times at U20 level.
England face Italy U20 on Saturday 8th June before rounding off their Pool B campaign against Australia four days later.
Bates said: “The key element is that we are playing the side that won the U20 Six Nations so we know it is going to be a big challenge and we have got to be right at the top of our game. We have to be accurate, we have to be patient and understand that if we don’t play to the best of our ability then this will be a very tough game and even if we do, we realise it will still be tight.
“The players are in really good shape, having now spent a fair amount of time with each other they have gelled extremely well and look to be a tight group and we hope that will translate to a good performance on Tuesday.
“A big factor for us is going to be the experience of our pack, a lot have played in the Premiership already, they have played a lot at U20 level and also in this tournament so they are battle hardened. Having said that we are not going to play a game dominated by our forwards because we have some very exciting and talented backs but we recognise up front will be an area where we can exert some pressure."
England U20s team to play Ireland:
15 Tom de Glanville (Bath Rugby)
14 Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
13 Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints) - captain
12 Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks)
11 Tom Seabrook (Gloucester Rugby)
10 Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
9 Ollie Fox (Bath Rugby)
1 Olly Adkins (Gloucester Rugby)
2 Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks)
3 Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
4 Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5 Alex Coles (Northampton Saints)
6 Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
7 Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester Rugby)
8 Tom Willis (Wasps)
16 Alfie Barbeary (Wasps) – Bloxham School
17 Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors)
18 Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs)
19 Will Capon (Bristol Bears)
20 James Kenny (Exeter Chiefs)
21 Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs)
22 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
23 Josh Basham (Newcastle Falcons)