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England Rugby has announced the appointment of their three U20 coaches for the 2018/19 season.
Mark Hopley, James Scaysbrook and Richard Whiffin all join for 18 months as part of the latest coach development programme agreement signed between the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and Premiership Rugby.
The programme will run alongside the coaches’ current club duties and will include the 2019 Six Nations as well as next year’s World Rugby U20 Championship tournament in Argentina.
The U20 coaching team will be supported by RFU pathway performance coaches Steve Bates and Jim Mallinder while the trio will receive an individually designed coach development programme, led by head of professional coach development Gordon Lord.
It follows a successful trial in 2016/17 which saw Louis Deacon, Tom Williams and Ian Vass, who has gone on to coach at Montpellier, lead the U20s to Six Nations glory as well as into the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship.
Last season saw Anthony Allen, Richard Blaze, who was recently appointed forwards coach for England Women, and James Ponton join the programme in the second year of the agreement.
Under their guidance England U20s finished runners-up in the Six Nations, while also reaching the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship, where they were beaten by France
“It takes a long time to become a top coach."— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) September 11, 2018
Here's how our development programme with @premrugby is helping to develop the future stars of England Rugby: https://t.co/wfy96meqU1 pic.twitter.com/umxC8bW7m4
"We’re now the third year into the programme and we’re really looking to continue supporting those coaches that have a desire to go on and work in the Premiership or a senior environment," said head of international player development Dean Ryan.
“The agreement started as a support programme but it’s starting to see a trajectory into those environments with the coaches who have come through it.
“This is the next group who we will want to support and give experience of coaching international rugby to help with the development of their own careers.”
This year’s coaches will also be directly involved in preparing for, delivering and reviewing the U20’s coaching and playing programme.
The coaches will also have access to mentors and be exposed to a range of non-rugby elite performance environments that will involve visits to and interactions with coaches, support staff and athletes from a range of sports.
Hopley was appointed Northampton Saints academy head coach in March 2018 and came through the Saints Academy himself before making more than 50 appearances in the first team, joining the coaching staff in 2010.
"I’m really excited about this opportunity to coach England U20s and to work with an extremely talented group of players," said Hopley.
“I can’t wait to pick up from where the last group of coaches left off. It’s an honour for me to take on the challenge of coaching an international representative team as well as the Saints Academy, and I hope I can further improve as a coach during my tenure.”
Former Bath and Exeter flanker Scaysbrook is forwards and defence coach at Toyota Shuttles in Japan, having also previously coached at Kowloon as well as Plymouth.
"I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to help coach an age group that have done really well over the past few years and I’m excited to start working with the best young English players in the country," added Scaysbrook.
“I’m relishing the chance to help develop the players and also looking forward to the chance to develop my own coaching. As a young coach I’ve had some good experiences so far and hopefully this will add to it.
“As a coach I like to drive the positives and search for the opportunities for players to develop and improve.”
Whiffin was named Gloucester Rugby head of academy in July 2017. He joined the club as academy backs coach in the summer of 2016 after spending more than 10 years with London Irish.
He also worked with the England Saxons and Argentina and added: “Having previously coached in the Premiership and the A-League and first team level here at Gloucester, this is a great opportunity to develop my coaching and work with the best young exciting talent from around the country.
“I thoroughly enjoy my role as head of academy at Gloucester Rugby and this opportunity is an honour and very much recognition of the good work being put in by everyone at the club
“I’m really looking forward to the challenges of coaching with an international representative team alongside my work with Gloucester Rugby.”