England Under 20 captain Zach Mercer paid tribute to his team mates, after their World Rugby U20 Championship final ended in defeat.
Mercer and his team mates had defied the odds to reach the final with the game proving one match too far.
New Zealand sealed a 64-17 victory in Sunday’s final but Mercer says the side should still be proud of themselves.
“We are disappointed with the result but we will leave Georgia with our heads held high,” said Mercer.
“We came up against some huge challenges during this campaign and I’m really proud of the boys effort.”"We are disappointed with the result but we will leave Georgia with our heads held high."
The Bath forward added: “We won’t make excuses, they were the better outfit, we didn’t switch on as well as we should have in that first 20 minutes, they capitalised on evert error they are outstanding outfit.”
England were without 12 players going into Sunday’s final. Five were called into the senior squad for the tour of Argentina, while a further seven were ruled out through injury.
And Mercer said he was disappointed not to have been able to win the tournament for those players who missed out through injury.
“We lost players pre and during the tournament and we wanted to do it for them, however, it wasn’t to be but it has been a squad effort to get us to this point,” he added.
For Mercer and many of the squad this will be the last time they play for England U20s with players such as Max Malins, Harry Randall and Theo Brophy Clews now moving into senior rugby.
And Mercer says the challenge for them is to return to club rugby and try and make the move up to international rugby.“For a lot of these players it’s the last time they’ll play for England U20 so this is a special day for them,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time with England U20s and the challenge for us now is to go back to our clubs and be better players and try and make that step to international rugby.”