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England confirm big year ahead for U18s

England have announced their U18 squad for 2023 and confirmed two big events for their youngest age group squad.

England have announced the names 34 players who will make up their U18 squad – only the second time an official age group squad has been named

Prior to last year, instead of a national U18 squad, the RFU selected a “Talent Development Group” of roughly 50-60 players whose primary function was – as its name suggests – player development, as part of a development pathway. Prior to 2019 the names of players selected for the “TDG” were generally not publicised, and they rarely played any matches.

The launch of the Six Nations Festival last year prompted a change in that policy, and last January for the first time a formal 34-player England U18 squad was announced.

With the confirmation that the Festival will take place again this year (at Wellington College, in Crowthorne, Berkshire, from 7-15 April) a new squad has been announced which will also play in a high-profile U18 “test” at Rugby School on 4th March against Wales, as part of the school’s 200th anniversary celebrations of Webb Ellis’s mythical match (tickets)

Six players from last year’s squad return - Daisy Aspinall, Bridget Campbell, Sophie McQueen, Josie Plant, Lilly Plowman and Hannah Sams

They are joined by 28 new faces: Jasmine Adonri, Lauren Bailey, Lucy Calladine, Connie Clarke, Ella Cromack, Millie David, Natalee Evans, Lucy Finch, Emma Gerrard, Evie Haskell, Sophie Hopkins, Millie Hyett, Lauren Knowler, Haineala Lutui, Amelia MacDougall, Annabel Meta, Keira Muir, Sarah Parry, Heidi Pashaei Tarighoun, Millie Pearce, Kayleigh Priest, Anna Richardson, Lucie Sams, Sam Shiels, Lucy Ward, Amelia Williams, Ruby Winstanley, Ellie Wood.

The new squad has a wider geographic spread than last year, when over half of the squad came from just three centres of excellence, including nine from Gloucester Hartpury

This season six are from Exeter and Wasps; four from Gloucester Hartpury, Harlequins and Worcester; two from Bristol, North East & Cumbria, Sale and Saracens; and one from Yorkshire.

England women’s U18 head coach, James Cooper, said: “Congratulations to all the women who have been selected to be part of this squad. They’ve worked incredibly hard and we’re excited by the strength and depth of the group.  

“We’ve been together as a group since August last year, during which time we’ve had 84 players in camp, so it was very difficult for the coaching group to whittle the squad down to just 34. That being said, I would have no hesitation in calling any one of those women who haven’t been selected back into camp or a matchday 23 if needed.  

“There’s a great mix of experience in the squad, and I’d like to acknowledge the Centres of Excellence, clubs and colleges that have done an outstanding job of developing the players, as well as the invaluable support provided by their parents and guardians.
“For each of these players, their selection is another step in their rugby careers, which hopefully one day culminates in pulling on a Red Roses jersey. 

“This year is going to be massive. We come together in camp next month ahead of our game against Wales to celebrate rugby’s 200-year anniversary at Rugby School, which for many will be a highlight of their rugby journeys. Then in April we’ll host what I’m sure will be a very competitive Under-18 Six Nations Festival.” 

Previous U18 Internationals

There have been twelve "full length" (two 35 minute halves) U18 age group "tests" since 2016, including three at last year's Six Nations Festival with England taking part in seven of them, winning four.

The game at Rugby School will be the third time England have played Wales - and Wales have won both of the previous games. Wales also beat Ireland at last year's Six Nations Festival, which means that the Welsh have a 100% success rate at this level. This is an echo of Wales' successful U19 team that, between 2003 and 2007, won six and drew one of its 15 internationals against England, Canada and USA before programme ended.   

Last year's Six Nations Festival also included two "half-time" games, which were just 35 minutes long. Wales won both of those games as well.

U18 Internationals 2016-2022
05/04/2016 England TDG 41-17 Canada U18 (Bicton College, Devon)
09/04/2016 England TDG 17-12 Canada U18 (Bicton College, Devon)
01/08/2017 Canada U18 58-12 United States U18 (Ottawa)
05/08/2017 Canada U18 25-5 United States U18 (Ottawa)
18/04/2018 Emerging Wales 26-20 England TDG (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)
03/03/2019 England TDG 39-5 Scottish Futures (Preston Grasshoppers)
30/04/2019 Emerging Wales 28-22 England TDG (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)
31/12/2019 United States U18 24-29 Canada U18 (Chula Vista)
19/02/2022 England U18 64-0 Scotland U18 (Tynedale)
14/04/2022 Ireland U18 10-17 Wales U18 (Six Nations Festival: Edinburgh)
14/04/2022 Scotland U18 24-22 Italy U18 (Six Nations Festival: Edinburgh)
14/04/2022 England U18 10-72 France U18 (Six Nations Festival: Edinburgh)

2022 Six Nations Festival 35-minute matches:
09/04/2022 Scotland U18 0-24 Wales U18 (Edinburgh)
09/04/2022 England U18 17-12 Ireland U18 (Edinburgh)
09/04/2022 France U18 26-0 Ireland U18 (Edinburgh)
09/04/2022 Italy U18 0-14 Wales U18 (Edinburgh)
09/04/2022 England U18 7-29 France U18 (Edinburgh)
09/04/2022 Scotland U18 0-0 Italy U18 (Edinburgh)