Dean Ryan has described England’s progress at the World Rugby U20 Championship in Georgia as a “significant achievement” after they sealed a place in Sunday’s final.
England will take on New Zealand on Sunday (kick-off 3pm BST, live on ITV4) and head of international player development Ryan says players and coaches alike deserve a huge amount of credit.
Heading into the tournament five members of the U20 Elite Performance Squad were called into the senior set up for the two-Test tour of Argentina.
The squad have also lost five key players to injury while out in Georgia, however, they remain unbeaten this season having also won the Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year.
“Four of the squad that went to Argentina were key members of that U20 Six Nations winning side, while Jack Maunder was also part of the U20 Elite Performance Squad this season,” said Ryan.
“The context of those five going, added to the five starting backs that have been injured out here as well as guys like Jamie Shillcock and Will Evans at home injured makes the achievement of this group such a significant one.”
Ryan, who started his role at the Rugby Football Union in July 2016, added: “I’ve been hugely impressed by the manner of their achievement. It has been outstanding with three last-minute wins including the Grand Slam decider in Ireland and that is testament to this group.”
England have so far sealed bonus-point victories against Samoa and Wales in the pool stages, while leaving it late to defeat Australia and South Africa to advance through to Sunday’s final.
And Ryan paid tribute to the coaching set-up of Ian Vass, Louis Deacon and Tom Williams whose tactical nous have helped guide England U20s to success this season.
The trio continued as England’s coaching team in Georgia, having joined the management in January 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.
“Tactically this group have been better than the sides they have faced so far and that’s a real credit to the coaching team,” he said.
“They are working against incredible odds and Ian Vass, Tom Williams and Louis Deacon have been tremendous. We’ve won two or three games because of their tactical set up.
“I always wanted to get the best young coaches who are working in a Premiership environment and utilise them in the pathway and they have made a difference. Their impact has enabled us to still be in games with 70 minutes to go.”
Steve Bates leads the England U20s programme, delivering talent identification and facilitating coach and player development.
And Ryan added: “I want this programme to be part of their development. I want them to take on different roles, work with different people but bring the expertise which they achieve in their clubs.
“It’s a pilot project, it’s one we had to go to PRL and get an agreement for. It’s due for renewal, but ideally next year we’d see three new coaches come into the programme as part of their development and work with Steve Bates to run another U20 campaign.”
Strength in depth
Ryan also says the development of players at all levels is having a significant and positive impact for England Rugby.
“We used 37 players in the Six Nations, we’re without 13 players here in Georgia and would have used over 40 players this season,” he said.
“That’s an illustration of a significant amount of work that is being done in the clubs and at national level in the pathway.
“Watching the first Test in Argentina last week was tremendous because for the U20 team to see Tom Curry, Nick Isiekwe and Jack Maunder get caps is fantastic. It shows how close they are to playing at the highest level and credit must go to Eddie Jones for taking those players into that environment and supporting them.”