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Rugby News

Testing night for Under-20s hopefuls

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Leicester Tigers full-back Freddie Steward was on the losing side as Ireland beat England in the Under-20s Six Nations on Friday, while fly-half Sam Costelow celebrated victory over world champions France with Wales.

England Under-20s were beaten 39-21 by defending Six Nations champions Ireland at Northampton after falling 29-7 behind in the first half.

Ireland’s first-half tries came from Alex Soroka, Hayden Hyde, Thomas Ahern and Ethan McIlroy, while England’s score was by George Hammond.

Second-half scores from Hugh Tizard and Theo Dan gave England hope, but tries via Max O’Reilly and Ahern won the game for Ireland.

It was a first loss for England having defeated France and Scotland in the opening two rounds, while Ireland remain unbeaten.

England head coach Alan Dickens said: "We were slow to start and, even though we scored the first try, we always seemed to be chasing the game once they took the lead.

"One of the big learnings will be to manage the game and to know when to play expansive rugby and when to control it. That will come with maturity and game understanding the more competitive fixtures we play.

"We have two games left in the tournament, we want to play well in those fixtures, continue to develop and hopefully finish with two victories. There were positives to take from tonight and we’ll focus on them and take it into the Wales game."

Steward started at full-back, while club colleagues James Whitcombe and George Martin are also included in the Under-20s squad this season. Scrum-half Jack Van Poortvliet, who had been involved in the opening two games, was called back to club duties to make his Premiership debut for Tigers at Sale Sharks.

England U20s: 15 Freddie Steward (Leicester Tigers), 14 Gabriel Hamer-Webb (Bath Rugby), 13 Connor Doherty (Sale Sharks), 12 Charlie Watson (Saracens), 11 Tom Roebuck (Sale Sharks), 10 George Barton (Gloucester Rugby), 9 Sam Maunder (Exeter Chiefs)(c); 1 Sam Crean (Saracens), 2 Theo Dan (Saracens), 3 Luke Green (London Irish), 4 Hugh Tizard (Harlequins), 5 George Hammond (Harlequins), 6 Richard Capstick (Exeter Chiefs), 7 Josh Gray (Gloucester Rugby), 8 Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs)
Replacements: 16 Ben Atkins (London Irish), 17 Emmanuel Iyogun (Northampton Saints), 18 Harvey Beaton (Saracens), 19 Chunya Munga (London Irish), 20 Rob Farrar (Newcastle Falcons), 21 Blake Boyland (Bristol Bears), 22 Will Haydon-Wood (Newcastle Falcons), 23 Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby)
Ireland: 15 Oran McNulty, 14 Ethan McIlroy, 13 Dan Kelly, 12 Hayden Hyde, 11 Andrew Smith, 10 Jack Crowley, 9 Lewis Finlay, 1 Marcus Hanan, 2 John McKee, 3 Thomas Clarkson, 4 Thomas Ahern, 5 Brian Deeny, 6 Alex Soroka, 7 Sean O’Brien, 8 David McCann (c)
Replacements: 16 Tom Stewart, 17 Harry Noonan, 18 Charlie Ward, 19 Joe McCarthy, 20 Cian Prendergast, 21 Ben Murphy, 22 Tim Corkery, 23 Max O’Reilly.

Wales Under-20s secured their first points of the campaign with a 14-11 victory over the French for the first time since the Grand Slam season of 2016.

In atrocious conditions in Colwyn Bay, Costelow made the break for scrum-half Ellis Bevan to run in the opening score and the Tigers fly-half added the conversion.

Two penalties brought France back into the game, and with Wales losing a player to the sin-bin, prop Sacha Lotrian scored to give the visitors the lead four minutes into the second half.

The win, though, was clinched with a try from Morgan Strong, converted by Costelow from the left touchline.