- Peel excited about young forwards coming through
- Former Newcastle Falcon looks ahead to Under 18 tour of South Africa
Fresh from helping England Under 20 to their second Junior World Championship win in June after a nail-biting 21-20 win against South Africa, Forwards Coach Ian Peel says that the conveyor belt of talent in England shows no sign of slowing down as he prepares to spend some time with the Under 18 side in South Africa.
Looking back at the Under 20’s tour, how do you reflect on a second successive win?
I’ve watched the final back a few times and have spoken to a few of the guys, and the main feeling is just one of massive pride. We put a real focus on performing well out there and it was an enjoyable few weeks. To back up what we did in 2013 with a new group of players was a great achievement.
The last 20 minutes of that final against South Africa were pretty tense, how was it for you?
It was fairly stressful. We were eight points up and seemingly in control but we slipped up, they scored and suddenly it’s a one-point game. The lads in those last few minutes were superb though, and it’s a testament to their character that they were able to hold on. They were a lot calmer than we were in the coaches box!
You’ve worked with some of those players since the age of 15, how proud did it make you seeing them lift that trophy?
There was a huge sense of pride, of course. Someone like Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi is one of a number of players who we have worked with since Under 15 and he was excellent in that final. We knew it was going to be physical – to play a big southern hemisphere team in the final was always going to be tough.
It would have been good to play New Zealand in their own back yard, but South Africa beat them twice. We knew it would be a different challenge to what we had faced in the tournament, and so it proved.
England Under 18 head to South Africa on Sunday and you’re out there for two of the three games. Presumably you'll be keeping an eye on the talent coming through?
It’s a great opportunity to go and work with the Under 18 guys. It’s the end of their season and the start of the Under 19/Under 20 campaign, so it’s a good chance to spend some time with them as we look ahead to naming the Under 20 squad for next season. They play Wales, France and South Africa so it will be a tough tour, but one I’m sure they’re looking forward to.
A lot of the guys from this season’s Under 20 side were in their first year, so they head into next season with a year’s worth of experience under their belt. That must be extremely pleasing.
No pressure then! It’s true though – a bulk of the squad have a JWC behind them. Couple that with the strength of talent coming through and next season’s squad will have a nice balance about it. The likes of Jack Walker, Paul Hill and Charlie Ewels, to name three, will be important players for us and we’ll be expecting them to impart their wisdom onto the new crop. The best thing is the level of competition we’ve got."The best thing is the level of competition we’ve got."
There seems to be a real depth of talent in the English front row at the moment. What do you put that down to?
When I first got involved with England the likes of Joe Marler, Mako Vunipola and Henry Thomas were all coming through, and they’ve all progressed really well. The amount of involvement these guys get in games is what’s ultimately improving them as players.
The 15 or 16 year-olds coming through now are looking at the likes of Mako or Luke Cowan-Dickie and want to emulate that. The game has moved on so much since I played. If I touched the ball twice and made a tackle I would think that I had a good game. Now it’s not unusual for a prop to make 15 tackles, carry the ball 10 times, make 20 passes and have a solid set-piece. The exciting thing is that there’s even more talent coming through.
The Under 20s next get together in September for a camp, how important is it to see everyone that early in the season?
It’s key. We don’t actually get to see the players that much, so we have to get everything we can out of each session we’re together. The clubs and the academies do a brilliant job with them. For us it’s a case of touching base to see how they’re getting on and to start putting the foundations in for another season. It’s not a closed door though – we want to see who puts their hand up for selection.
We’ll be keeping our eyes open throughout the year. Henry Taylor is a good example – we didn’t name him in our initial squad but he played well for Loughborough University and ended up starting the JWC final.