Following London Irish U18’s closely-fought draw to share the Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy trophy on Sunday, five Exiles have been included in the England U18s February Development Camp.
England men U18s head coach Jonathan Pendlebury has named a 46-player squad for February’s development camp at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre (20-23 February).
The squad includes 19 players capped at U18s level already.
Forwards Fin Baxter, Phil Brantingham, Tarek Haffar, Emeka Ilione, Ewan Richards, Ethan Staddon, John Stewart, Kit Smith, Freddie Thomas, Will Trenholm and Archie Vanes were all part of the summer development tour to South Africa – which marks the start of the England U18 international season.
They were joined in South Africa by backs Charlie Atkinson, Orlando Bailey, Oscar Beard, Sam Bryan, Ethan Grayson, Louis Hillman-Cooper, Will Joseph and Matthew Ward who are all included in the squad for the first development camp of the year.
England U18s will play two standalone fixtures against Scotland at Hawick RFC (Sunday 15 March, 2pm kick off) and France in Bourges (Sunday 22 March, 4pm kick off – local time), before April’s U18 Six Nations Festival in France.
The U18 Six Nations Festival is competed by England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy with each nation playing three fixtures over two weeks.
The squad are led by new head coach Jonathan Pendlebury, who is assisted by Darlington Mowden Park coach Mark Luffman (forwards) and Harlequins academy coach Mark Mapletoft (backs) for the season.
Former England international Mapletoft has previous experience of coaching in the player pathway having been England U20s coach and also held a senior role at Harlequins until 2019. Luffman has coached in the pathway since 2014 – and continues his role with England U18s.
Players have been selected by pathway staff based on their performances in the U18 academy league, as well as school competitions and also in consultation with academy managers from the 14 regional academies.
The camp will also allow coaches to discuss playing principles and themes with the squad ahead of the two standalone fixtures, as well as the U18 Six Nations Festival. Players will be encouraged to explore the boundaries of their game during training.
In addition six players will be invited into camp as part of the wider squad as a way to support their future development.
Toby Knight - Saracens (Berkhamsted School) had been part of the original 46-player squad but is ruled out of the development camp through injury.
Jonathan Pendlebury said: "My first priority is to get to know these players as well as I can. The players are the pathway.
"As a pathway management team we want to support the players in their development towards being full time senior academy players and future internationals as well as help them fulfil their potential as senior players in the game.
"The sessions will be a step up from the last 10 weeks of U18 academy league fixtures that they have participated in. I expect the players to ‘explore boundaries’ which could be a way of playing or executing a skill or tactic and look to learn something from each session and particularly each game that may support their progression in the game.
"We will explore different themes in attack, defence and transition and how we execute or look to utilise these will be a main theme for the U18 group going forwards.
"Mark Luffman will continue a role he has had within the age group squads. He is an excellent front-row specialist coach and has helped the development of several Premiership and current international players.
"To be able to draw on the coaching expertise of Mark Mapletoft is also incredibly valuable. He knows what the game looks like at the top level through his work at Harlequins, as well as his previous work with past age group squads, the U20s and now more closely with Harlequins senior and junior academy players.
"I just can’t wait to start working with this group through the spring and across the five competitive weekends this group will have together."
England men U18s squad for February development camp
Fin Baxter - Harlequins (Wellington College)
Corey Bowker - Sale Sharks (Kirkham Grammar)
Phil Brantingham - Newcastle Falcons (RGS Newcastle)
Arthur Clark - Gloucester Rugby (Hartpury College)
Joe Elsworth - Exeter Chiefs (Exeter College)
Jack Forsythe - Worcester Warriors (Warwick School)
Ben Grubb - Exeter Chiefs (Truro College)
Tarek Haffar - London Irish (St Pauls College)
Emeka Ilione - Leicester Tigers (Rugby School)
Obinna Nkwocha - Saracens (Felsted School)
Ethan Pearce-Cowley - Exeter Chiefs Truro College
Ewan Richards - Bath Rugby (Millfield School)
Charlie Rice - Bristol Bears (SGS College Filton)
Marcus Rhodes - London Irish (Wellington College)
Jack Rowntree - Leicester Tigers (Leicester Grammar School)
Ethan Staddon - Bath Rugby (Beechen Cliff School)
John Stewart - Bath Rugby (Beechen Cliff School)
Tristan Smith - Saracens (Felsted School)
Kit Smith - Leicester Tigers (Oakham School)
George Taylor - Bristol Bears (Bristol Grammar School)
Freddie Thomas - Gloucester Rugby (Dean Close School)
Will Trenholm - Harlequins (Cranleigh School)
Andrew Turner - Bristol Bears (SGS College Filton)
Joe Vajner - London Irish (Whitgift School)
Archie Vanes - Leicester Tigers (Brooksby Melton College)
Owen Vassello – Newcastle Falcons (Durham School)
Charlie Atkinson - Wasps (Abingdon School)
Seb Atkinson - Worcester Warriors (Bromsgrove School)
Deago Bailey - Bristol Bears (SGS Filton)
Orlando Bailey - Bath Rugby (Beechen Cliff School)
Oscar Beard - Harlequins (Cranleigh School)
Jamie Benson – Harlequins (Hampton School)
Sam Bryan - Saracens (Felsted School)
Cassius Cleaves - Harlequins (Wellington College)
Ethan Grayson - Northampton Saints (Northampton School for Boys)
Olly Hartley - Wasps (Whitgift School)
Louis Hillman-Cooper - Gloucester Rugby (Cheltenham College)
Brandon Jackson - Saracens (Sutton Valence School)
Matty Jones - Gloucester Rugby (Dean Close School)
Will Joseph - London Irish (Millfield School)
Dani Long-Martinez - Northampton Saints (Norwich School)
Rory Morgan - London Irish (St Pauls College)
Finlay Smith - Worcester Warriors (Warwick School)
Matthew Ward - Newcastle Falcons (Gosforth Academy)
TJ Wilstead - Bristol Bears (Colston's School)
Ollie Wynn - Worcester Warriors (Bromsgrove School)
Additional wider squad attendees
Tumy Onasanya - Sale Sharks (Pendleton Sixth Form College)
Nonso Agina - Sale Sharks
Harry Hocking - Exeter Chiefs (Truro College)
Ned Hawker – Yorkshire Carnegie (Woodhouse Grove)
Daniel Eckersley - Wasps (Bloxham School)
Nye Thomas - Sale Sharks (Liverpool College)