Four Northampton Saints starlets have been selected for England U20s’ 32-man Elite Player Squad for the 2018/19 season.
Alex Coles, Fraser Dingwall, Samson Ma’asi, and Ollie Sleightholme have all been included by head coaches Steve Bates and Jim Mallinder – with Saints Academy’s Mark Hopley also joining James Scaysbrook and Richard Whiffin within the coaching set-up.
"International selections are always huge for the Academy – bringing through the best young players is exactly what we are aiming for."Simon Sinclair, Academy Manager
The quartet have impressed across all competitions for both Saints and Wanderers so far this term, and will now compete in both the 2019 Six Nations and the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina.
Dingwall is one of 14 players within the squad who has been capped at U20 level previously and will hope to go one step further than last year after the side finished as runners-up in both the Six Nations and World Championship.
But while all four Northampton youngsters will be desperate to be involved in every one of England’s matches, the Red Rose’s final Six Nations clash against Scotland will be extra special – with Saints hosting what could prove to be a crucial match.
Tickets for England vs Scotland at Franklin's Gardens are available now from £10 for adults and £5 for juniors, and can be purchased by CLICKING HERE.
“We’re thrilled to have such a strong contingent of young Northampton players within the U20s group once again,” said Academy manager Simon Sinclair.
“Last season, we saw the likes of James Grayson and Ehren Painter break into Saints' first team off the back of superb performances with the U20s.
“Fraser and Ollie have already shown they can cut the mustard at the highest level in Northampton colours this season, and I’ve no doubt that Samson and Alex have the quality to make a significant impact for England too.
“We have a rich heritage of producing quality home-grown players here at Franklin’s Gardens, but international selections are always huge for the Academy – bringing through the best young players is exactly what we are aiming for throughout our recruitment and training process.
“So this represents another great achievement for everyone involved in supporting these lads day in, day out.”
After making his first-team debut earlier this term against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham, Dingwall has gone from strength to strength in Black, Green and Gold, making nine appearances so far and scoring two tries.
Sleightholme also announced himself on the Premiership stage in some style, scoring 15 seconds into his own league debut and notching twice more since, while Coles was another to celebrate his first Saints appearance earlier this season at Wasps in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
Bates added: “Selecting the 32-player squad was a very difficult task which reflects the quality of the group. We have several players with Premiership experience and that speaks volumes of how good they are.
“The expectation for us now is to raise the standard and quality of performance from last season’s group and for the players to continue to develop in this environment.”
England U20 fixtures
Ireland v England
Friday 1 February, KO 19.15 GMT
Irish Independent Park, Cork
England v France
Saturday 9 February, KO 12.05 GMT – live on Sky Sports
Sandy Park, Exeter
Wales v England
Friday, 22 February, KO 19.05 GMT – live on S4C
ZipWorld Stadium, Colwyn Bay
England v Italy
Friday, 8 March, KO 19.45 – live on Sky Sports
Goldington Road, Bedford
England v Scotland
Friday, 15 March, KO 19.45 – live on Sky Sports
Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton
For tickets, please visit: bit.ly/Eng-Sco-U20-FG