By the end of Round 4 of the RBS Six Nations, three England sides could be in contention to win grand slam titles with the under-20’s and women’s with England’s senior squad looking to secure back to back grand slams since 91/92 in the then five nations tournament.
It highlights the depth of English rugby, but particular attention should be paid to the Under-20’s who continue to impress both in the Six Nations and on the world stage.
Since it’s inception in 2008, England’s under-20’s lead the way with five competition wins – two of which being grand slams. This campaign could be their second win in three years. As well as England’s dominance in the world championships, it’s a celebration of the country’s rugby development at the age-grade level.
However, England’s under-20’s world championship record is far more impressive – having featured in seven of the nine finals since the competition began in 2008. Of those seven, three have been wins, most notably their most recent on home soil in 2016. The squad is arguably even stronger this time round as they bid to defend their world title.
Despite a poor six nations championship in 2016 they went on to win the world championship, which is some achievement given their form going into the competition wouldn’t have been ideal preparation.
But why is this a team that exudes so much success? Well, you only have to look at the Premiership and Championship teams these players belong to, to find the answer. Clubs develop their players possibly better than anywhere in the world. As well as their respective league campaigns, having a competition like the Anglo-Welsh Cup where the focus is on young academy players provides a sense of responsibility under a spotlight that has far reaching significance on their development.Having that time at the top level for a club where competition is so great drives up standards and inevitably those individual performances. Just look at players like Zach Mercer who’s featured prominently for Bath this season in the Premiership. At only 19 years of age, is looking likely to be included in Eddie Jones’ senior squad in the not too distant future. Similarly, Max Malins has put in some standout performances in the Anglo-Welsh Cup for Saracens and contributing to his inclusion in the first team’s Premiership campaign.
Support at a younger age undoubtedly leads to success. On that basis, it would be difficult not to back this young England side to successfully defend their world title in Georgia this summer. For now though the Six Nations championship leaders look set for the grand slam finish. Their attacking strength has firmly put them as the competition’s most prolific scorers with 21 tries. Despite conceding only four tries during that time, their defence has been just as strong. An all-round game that looks seemingly flawless, these young stars continue to impress and are surely destined for greatness.