25 April 2019
London Irish Academy players Ben Atkins and Izaiha Moore-Aiono have both been named in the England U20 squad to play against South Africa at Coventry Rugby's Butts Park Arena on Friday (kick off 7.30pm).
Flanker Andy Christie, centre Sam Spink as well as wingers Charlie Powell and Jake Morris will make their England U20 debuts. Fly half replacements Will Haydon-Wood and flanker Izaiha Moore-Aiono could win their first caps.
The match will serve as vital preparation ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship in June. It will also provide players a final opportunity to earn selection for the Championship, which is being hosted by Argentina.
It is the second-successive year that England have played South Africa ahead of the World Rugby U20 Championship having taken them on at Worcester’s Sixways Stadium in 2018.
The side are led by pathway performance coach Bates, who is assisted by Mark Hopley (forwards), James Scaysbrook (defence) and Richard Whiffin (attack) who are part of the coach development programme agreement with Premiership Rugby.
Steve Bates said: "This is an opportunity for these players to stake a claim for a spot in our squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship and that is how we are approaching the game.
"It is very timely in terms of when the squad for the Championship gets picked, and for some it could be a very important fixture to get a place on the plane to Argentina.
"Joel Kpoku last year is a very good example. He did not take any part in the U20 Six Nations, played against South Africa, did very well and secured a place in the squad for the Championships in France.
"Last year’s match against South Africa was an important match in that it highlighted areas we needed to tighten before we played our first fixture at the Championship in France, while it also gave us an opportunity to play against one of the main contenders for the tournament. We learned a lot about their physicality and how they played and it proved to be a real eye opener for the squad as to what to expect from one of the southern hemisphere nations."
Friday’s match will be live streamed on Englandrugby.com as well as Facebook and YouTube channels.
15. Josh Hodge (Newcastle Falcons)
14. Charlie Powell (Bristol Bears)
13. Sam Spink (Wasps)
12. Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks)
11. Jake Morris (Gloucester Rugby)
10. Manu Vunipola (Saracens)
9. Gus Warr (Sale Sharks)
1. Olly Adkins (Gloucester Rugby)
2. Alfie Barbeary (Wasps)
3. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
4. Joel Kpoku (Saracens)
5. James Scott (Worcester Warriors)
6. Tom Willis (Wasps) - captain
7. Andy Christie (Saracens)
8. Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
16. Kai Owen (Worcester Warriors)
17. Ben Atkins (London Irish)
18. Alfie Petch (Exeter Chiefs)
19. Jon Kpoku (Saracens)
20. Izaiha Moore-Aiono (London Irish)
21. Ollie Fox (Yorkshire Carnegie)
22. Will Haydon Wood (Newcastle Falcons)
23. Jack Reeves (Gloucester Rugby)