30 January 2019
London Irish Senior Academy hooker Ben Atkins has been named in the England U20s squad for the Six Nations opener against Ireland at the Irish Independent Park in Cork on Friday 1 February (KO 19.15 GMT).
18-year-old Atkins came through London Irish’s AASE programme and made his inaugural first team appearance for the Exiles against London Scottish in October.
The England U20 side will be captained by Fraser Dingwall at outside centre and includes full senior international Ted Hill at openside flanker, who is named as vice-captain.
Nine players in the starting XV have been capped at this level, with seven playing in the final of the 2018 World Rugby U20 Championship in France.
As well as Dingwall and Hill, lock Joel Kpoku, flanker Aaron Hinkley, No 8 Tom Willis, fly half Marcus Smith and centre Tom Hardwick were part of the side that lost to France in Beziers last summer.
Prop Marcus Street will be appearing in his third U20 Six Nations Championship, while England’s replacements also include four players capped at this age group.
Among the replacements is centre Cameron Redpath who earned selection for the senior tour to South Africa last summer, before being ruled out through injury.
In the starting XV, prop Olly Adkins, hooker Nic Dolly, lock Alex Coles, scrum half Sam Maunder and wing Ollie Sleightholme will all make their U20s debut with Ben Atkins, Bevan Rodd, Rusiate Tuima and Ollie Fox set to do likewise as replacements.
Steve Bates said: “The message to the squad this week has been that this is a great opportunity for them to show how good they are at the start of another Six Nations campaign and they should play with confidence.
“This is a very exciting, talented group of players and they should not forget to play like it, we have to go out there on Friday and really express ourselves on the pitch but we know we have to respect the opposition who will be positive about their chances in this competition as well.
“This is a team full of experience, who are hugely talented and it is a shame we can only pick 15 as we’ve left out some very good players.
“The replacements will all be expected to make an impact on Friday, while the wider squad who will not be in Ireland, will also be required at various points in the competition and we need everyone to stay involved as they will play further down the line.”
15. Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
14. Ollie Sleightholme (Northampton Saints)
13. Fraser Dingwall (Northampton Saints)
12. Tom Hardwick (Leicester Tigers)
11. Cadan Murley (Harlequins)
10. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
9. Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)
1. Olly Adkins (Gloucester)
2. Nic Dolly (Sale Sharks)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4. Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5. Alex Coles (Northampton Saints)
6. Ted Hill (Worcester Warriors)
7. Aaron Hinkley (Gloucester)
8. Tom Willis (Wasps)
16. Ben Atkins (London Irish)
17. Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks)
18. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers)
19. James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
20. Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
21. Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie)
22. Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks)
23. Ollie Lawrence (Worcester Warriors)
England U20 Six Nations fixtures:
Ireland v England
Friday 1 February, KO 19.15 GMT
Irish Independent Park, Cork
England v France
Saturday 9 February, KO 12.05 GMT – live on Sky Sports
Sandy Park, Exeter. For tickets, please visit: englandrugby.com/tickets
Wales v England
Friday, 22 February, KO 19.05 GMT – live on S4C
ZipWorld Stadium, Colwyn Bay. For tickets, please visit: wru.wales/tickets
England v Italy
Friday, 8 March, KO 19.45 – live on Sky Sports
Goldington Road, Bedford. For tickets, please visit: englandrugby.com/tickets
England v Scotland
Friday, 15 March, KO 19.45 – live on Sky Sports
Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton. For tickets, please visit: englandrugby.com/tickets