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Trio take extra stepping stone in their stride

The World Under-20s provided contrasting fortunes for the Tigers representatives on its opening round this week – and it is a contrasting trio involved in national colours.

Joe Heyes got off to a frustrating start as England were beaten by an Irish fightback on Tuesday while Wales, who have selected Tommy Reffell and Sam Costelow in their squad, got off to a good start with a win over host nation Argentina.

Tighthead prop Heyes was in England’s squad last year too and has now started to establish himself at Tigers.

As Geordan Murphy pointed out, there are not many 19-year-old tightheads in Premiership rugby, let alone one who made 22 senior appearances in his debut season.

Heyes has since turned 20 though as a prop project, he is still in his infancy. He only came to the game late after reaching academy standard as a young footballer and has focused on the front row only since his mid-teens. That means there is huge room for growth in his game (if not necessarily in his frame) and this season's appearances, no matter how brief in many cases, will do no harm. In Boris Stankovich and Dan Cole, too, he could have no better masters as he comes to terms with life in the front row.

Reffell is a fortnight younger and made his debut for Tigers, ironically, in the Anglo-Welsh Cup a couple of seasons ago. He has been maturing physically while sitting in a queue headed by Brendon O’Connor, Guy Thompson and Will Evans for the specialist spot of openside and also developing his leadership skills as captain of his country in the Six Nations and World Under-20s a year ago.

Now O’Connor and Evans are gone and a strong Under-20s along the lines of his opening performance against the Pumitas will be just what Reffell is looking for ahead of his return to senior company.

The third member of the Under-20s trio is Sam Costelow who was young enough to still be playing at under-18 level this season. Accordingly, he has yet to play a senior game, but he has won back-to-back Under-18 League titles alongside an early elevation at international level which indicates the level of his potential.

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This is going to be an extra-long summer so The Tig decided that a trip to the England-Barbarians fixture was worth it to see two Tigers in action and to spend at least one more weekend not gardening and decorating.

It was good to be there to see Ben White and Will Spencer wear the red rose, though it can be a disorientating experience watching the Barbarians at Twickenham. With every member of the crowd cheering simultaneously for both teams, if you look away momentarily you have no idea who is on the attack.

Also, although they are on the same pitch, the teams play in  different contexts, with the England players using the platform of an uncapped fixture to potentially push their claims for recognition further down the line while the Barbarians are there primarily to entertain and to do justice to the traditions of the shirt.

This weekend the Tig will have to make do with coverage of the World Under-20s and, with six games in a day, that leaves no time for gardening and decorating.