England today announced their revised Under 20 Elite Player Squad for this season's major tournaments although the five Gloucester Rugby players retain their places.
Head Coach Mark Mapletoft has made two changes to the 32-man group taking part in the RBS U20 Six Nations that kicks off in February and in this summer's IRB Junior World Championship in Argentina.
London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph and Harlequins lock Charlie Matthews, both 18, join an experienced group that includes 16 players capped at this level last season.
Matthews takes over from injured Harlequins teammate Joe Trayfoot and Joseph, who has appeared in the LV= Cup for his club side this season, replaces London Wasps full back Jack Wallace.
"The strength in depth we have is increasing. I'm really pleased with the game time our players have been getting in the Guinness Premiership and the support and buy-in from the clubs has been a real positive. Our objective is that it will give England more and more options at a senior level in the years to come."
"It is likely that we will be without [Sale Sharks lock] James Gaskell for at least part of the RBS U20 Six Nations and we were looking for someone with similar qualities for the lineout who's tall and athletic, and Charlie Matthews fits the bill."
"I was impressed with him playing for England Under 18 on their unbeaten tour to South Africa last year and in the Guinness A League. He played well for the England Academies Under 19 side against Australian Schools in December and impressed me and [Under 20 coach] Rob Hunter at last month's training camp in Portugal."
"I'm also really pleased for JJ [Joseph]. He had some areas to work on that we'd talked about in September and he's been very good this season."
"He's had a run-out for the first team in the LV= Cup, he's solid defensively, makes things happen with ball in hand and he's extremely coachable. He's stuck his hand up over the last few months and it's nice to be able to reward that."
England completed a Six Nations Grand Slam in 2008 and reached the last two IRB Junior World Championship finals in 2008 and 2009.
There are seven survivors from the 2009 JWC squad, including Gaskell, leading points scorer Tom Homer (London Irish), fly half Rory Clegg (Harlequins) and hooker Jamie George (Saracens).
The group also includes 18-year-old wing Christian Wade (London Wasps) who has appeared for England Sevens at the George and Dubai IRB Sevens Series tournaments this season.
The Under 20 squad has a week's training camp starting on January 18 before reassembling for the build-up to the opening game of the RBS U20 Six Nations against Wales which takes place at Gloucester on February 5 (7.45pm).
Tickets for the England U20 home games are priced from £10-15 for adults and £4-5 for juniors with concessions for Kingsholm season ticket holders and further discounts for supporters buying a double match package.
Call the ticket hotline on 0871 871 8781 or visit www.gloucesterrugby.co.uk/tickets
England Under 20 Elite Player Squad
Joe Marler (Harlequins)**, Lee Imiolek (Sale Sharks), Jamie George (Saracens)**, Arthur Ellis (London Wasps)*, Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby)**, Mako Vunipola (Bristol Rugby), Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons), Calum Green (Leicester Tigers), Danny Wright (Gloucester Rugby)*, James Gaskell (Sale Sharks)**, Peter Elder (London Wasps)*, Charlie Matthews (Harlequins), Jamie Gibson (London Irish)*, Jacob Rowan (Leeds Carnegie)*, Will Welch (Newcastle Falcons), Alex Gray (Newcastle Falcons), Jackson Wray (Saracens)
Sam Harrison (Leicester Tigers)*, Jordi Pasqualin (Gloucester Rugby)*, Sam Stuart (Harlequins)
Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby)*, Rory Clegg (Harlequins)**, Jake Sharp (Saracens), Tom Catterick (Newcastle Falcons), Tom Casson (Saracens)*, Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Jonathan Joseph (London Irish), Sam Smith (Harlequins), Christian Wade (London Wasps), Marcus Watson (London Irish), Will Hurrell (Leicester Tigers)**, Tom Homer (London Irish)**
**2009 Junior World Cup squad
*Capped in the 2009 RBS U20 Six Nations
England's RBS U20 Six Nations fixtures
Feb 5: England U20 v Wales U20 (Gloucester, 7.45pm) live on Sky Sports
Feb 12: Italy U20 v England U20 (San Dona di Piave, 6pm)
Feb 26: England U20 v Ireland U20 (Gloucester, 7.45pm)
Mar 12: Scotland U20 v England U20 (Firhill, 7.30pm)
Mar 21: France U20 v England U20 (St Nazaire, 3pm)
Speaking to the local media this week, Richard Hibbard expressed his excitement ahead of the West Country derby and that there is an extra spring in the step of the Cherry and Whites ahead of the tough challenge.
With such a short turnaround between the two games, and Gloucester looking to reintegrate several players into the line-up after the Autumn international series, Tom Savage told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will keep changes to a minimum for the European Rugby Challenge Cup game in Zebre on Saturday.
Gloucester travel to Italy this weekend to take on Zebre in Round Four of the European Rugby Challenge Cup. The Cherry and Whites defeated the Italian side 35-10 last Sunday, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys is looking for an improved performance in the return fixture.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees, speaking to GRTV after the 35-10 over Zebre, was happy with the bonus point win over the Italian side but admitted Gloucester will need to tighten up for the return fixture in Parma.
Gloucester Rugby welcome Sione Kalamafoni, Greig Laidlaw and Tom Palmer back to the starting line up and feature David Halaifonua in a matchday squad for the first time, as they resume Aviva Premiership action against Bath Rugby at Kingsholm on Saturday (kick off 5:30pm).