England today named an exciting and experienced Under 20 Elite Player Squad for the new season featuring five Gloucester Rugby players.
The quintet from Kingsholm are Shaun Knight, Danny Wright, Jordi Pasqualin, Freddie Burns and Jonny May.
The 32-man group will compete in the RBS U20 Six Nations campaign in the New Year before heading to the IRB Junior World Championship (JWC) in Argentina next June.
Head coach Mark Mapletoft can call on 16 players capped at Under 20 level last season, including seven who took part in the JWC in Tokyo this summer where England were beaten by New Zealand in the final.
They include the 2009 JWC leading points scorer Tom Homer (London Irish), starting fly half Rory Clegg (Harlequins), hooker Jamie George (Saracens) and lock James Gaskell (Sale Sharks).
Mapletoft also promotes eight players from last season's unbeaten England Under 18 team, who completed a Five Nations Festival Grand Slam and beat South Africa 45-13 in Kimberley last month.
Mapletoft said: "We've got a great deal of experience and we're able to add to that with players who have been very successful at Under 18 level over the last two years.
"We also have a lot of raw talent to work with and the Under 18s certainly looked very strong in South Africa this summer.
"We're heading in the right direction and we've established ourselves as the second best side in the world behind New Zealand over the last couple of years.
"The age grade sides do change every year but we continually look at ourselves to keep improving and keep focusing on their development as players and as individuals."
The RFU's Head of Elite player development Stuart Lancaster is optimistic that the Under 20s can go one step further this season to claim a first world title in South America.
Lancaster said: "The strength in depth we've developed at age group level over the last few years is a great credit to the work the academies are doing within our clubs.
"There's a really positive environment that has been created between club and country here and the quality of the players coming through the system is testament to that.
"We've every right to be ambitious. The next step is for us to win the IRB Junior World Championship and looking at this group of players it's an achievable goal."
The Under 20s start their preparations with two days together at Twickenham next month and training camps in December and January before kicking off the Six Nations against Wales on February 5.
England Under 20 EPS
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)*
Jamie Gibson (London Irish)*
Joe Trayfoot (Harlequins)
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)
Sam Smith (Harlequins)
Christian Wade (London Wasps)
Marcus Watson (London Irish)
Will Hurrell (Leicester Tigers)**
Tom Homer (London Irish)**
Jack Wallace (London Wasps)
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.
Matt Kvesic was a try scorer and recipient of the Man of the Match award in Sunday's 35-10 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Zebre. He praised the Italian side for their spirited opposition and admitted that next week's return game will be a tough one.