Bates hails U20 player development

Steve Bates says the call up of four members of England’s U20 Grand Slam winning team to the senior squad for the tour of Argentina is a significant boost for the player pathway programme.

The Curry twins Ben and Tom, Nick Isiekwe and Joe Cokanasiga have all been named in the England senior squad, having helped the U20s to Six Nations glory earlier this year, while Jack Maunder, who was named in the U20 EPS last year is also selected.

“It’s a huge positive, it’s also a fantastic opportunity for the guys selected,” said RFU performance manager Bates.

“It’s a huge vote of confidence and for the boys it’s just proves to them how close they are. It’s a great boost for everybody.”"It’s absolutely vital to expose the players to this type of environment."

England are currently preparing to defend their World Rugby U20 championship title in Georgia and Bates, who is responsible for delivering talent identification as well facilitating coach and player development at the Rugby Football Union believes the tournament is vital to the development of both players and coaches alike.

“It’s absolutely vital to expose the players to this type of environment,” he said.

“To play the likes of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand at this level, so that they get the confidence that they’ve seen these players before and in a lot of cases have beaten these players before is crucial. So by the time they reach the senior international stage they are concentrating on tactical aspects rather than being overawed psychologically.”

Playing all of their Pool A matches in the Avchala Stadium, England will open their campaign against Samoa on Wednesday 31 May.  

England will face familiar faces in their second fixture when they come up against Wales on Sunday 4 June. The two sides recently met in the Six Nations, with England coming out 37-21 winners.

Australia, who were in England’s pool last year, are the opposition for their final pool game on Thursday 8 June.

Ian Vass, Louis Deacon and Tom Williams continue as England’s coaching team in Georgia, having joined the management as part of a new agreement with Premiership Rugby in which club coaches lead and develop the U20s while gaining experience in an international environment.

And Bates believes they have benefited hugely from the experience.

“You can tell by their enthusiasm and their relationship with the players that they have got a lot out of this experience,” he said. I think they have grown as coaches.”

All of the group stage matches will be streamed live on with highlights shown on ITV4 on Wednesday 31 May, Sunday 4 June and Thursday 8 June.  The semi-finals and final will be shown live on ITV4.