England head coach Mark Mapletoft is predicting a high octane encounter when his RBS 6 Nations Under-20 campaign kicks off against Wales on Friday.
Mapletoft has handed five players their first caps - full back Tom Catterick (Newcastle), wing Sam Smith (Harlequins), lock Calum Green (Leicester), flanker Will Welch and No.8 Alex Gray (both Newcastle).
But while not afraid to blood new players Mapletoft – whose side finished third last year – has kept a core of experience in the side with seven survivors from last year’s IRB Junior World Championship in Tokyo.
Established Guinness Premiership faces James Gaskell (Sale), Tom Homer (London Irish) and Rory Clegg (Harlequins) return to the side having missed last month’s 61-7 warm-up win against Cambridge University.
England were beaten finalists at the Tokyo tournament last year but with attentions turning to domestic matters Mapletoft is gearing his side up for a tough test at Gloucester on Friday.
“We’re excited about the potential of this group and we’ve got a nice blend of young players coming into the side together with those who were involved with us last year,” said Mapletoft.
“We want to play an exciting brand of rugby at a high tempo and they’ve all bought into that.
“We’re under no illusions that Wales will be a really difficult test for us though and they continue to produce lots of talented young players.
“Both sides will want to play and move the ball, so it should make for a great contest at Kingsholm.”
England: Catterick, Hurrell, Homer, Clegg, Smith, Burns, Harrison; Marler, George, Knight, Green, Gaskell, Welch, Rowan, Gray. Replacements: Ellis, Imiolek, Matthews, Wray, Stuart, Joseph, May.