England's preparations for the IRB Toshiba Junior World Championship started with an untidy 23-20 defeat in a Dan James memorial game against Loughborough Students last night.
The England Under 20 side arrived in the Midlands yesterday after a six-week break at the end of the Six Nations and looked predictably rusty as they went straight into the game against a talented student side.
Gloucester Rugby's Charlie Sharples, Dave Lewis and Dan Williams all started the game while Shaun Knight, Jordi Pasqualin and Henry Trinder were all used off the bench.
Calum Clark (Leeds Carnegie) and Luke Eves (Bristol Rugby) scored England's tries, with Rob Miller converting both and kicking a penalty with his Newcastle Falcons teammate Rory Clegg adding another in the second half.
For Loughborough, centre James Golledge finished off a counter-attack that was the move of the match, and prop Tom Urpens forced his way over from the back of a lineout. Grant Pointer converted both and kicked a penalty with Henry Pyrgos stroking over two more after the interval.
The match celebrated the life of Dan James, who died last September 18 months after he was paralysed in a training ground accident.
A minute's applause before kick-off honoured the England Students hooker who played in two BUSA Championship-winning Loughborough teams, scoring two tries in the 2006 final against Bath.
Money raised from ticket sales is going to the Dan James Trust, which supports spinal injury research, and parents Mark and Julie presented a cup in Dan's memory to Loughborough captain Evan Stewart.
The England squad are together for six days of preparation in Loughborough and meet up again to fly to Tokyo on May 27.
They play Japan (June 5), Scotland (June 9) and Samoa (June 13) in the pool stages with the semi final and final rounds following on June 17 and 21.
England Under 20:
Rory Clegg (Newcastle Falcons); Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), George Lowe (Harlequins), Greig Tonks (Leicester Tigers), Jack Cobden (Leicester Tigers), Rob Miller (Newcastle Falcons), Dave Lewis (Gloucester Rugby); Joe Marler (Harlequins), James Clark (London Irish), Bob Baker (London Wasps), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks), Dan Williams (Gloucester Rugby), Chris York (Harlequins), Calum Clark (Leeds Carnegie), Carl Fearns (Sale Sharks).
Ben Moon (Exeter Chiefs), Shaun Knight (Gloucester Rugby), Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), Jamie George (Saracens), Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Will Hurrell (Leicester Tigers), Jordi Pasqualin (Gloucester Rugby), Luke Eves (Bristol Rugby), Jacob Rowan (Leeds Carnegie).
Grant Pointer; Dave Vincent, James Golledge, Owen Lewis, Jack Bird; George Drake, Will Chudley; Tom Hobbs, Jason Phipps, Matt Berry, Jon Aston, Rob Wood, Simon Pitfield, Evan Stewart (captain), Phil Burgess.
Tom Urpens, Sam Staff, George Thomas, Will Warden, Dan Falvey, Jamie Cullen, Dave Hughes, Paul Trendell, Nathan Lambden, Simon Lilley, Adam Bishop.
Speaking after the 37-8 European Rugby Challenge Cup win over Benetton Treviso, James Hook admitted that the Italian side made things tough for Gloucester at times but that the Cherry and Whites are happy to take the bonus point win and turn their focus to Northampton next week.
Speaking to GRTV after the game, Backs Coach Tim Taylor was happy with the squad as they cruised to victory over Treviso. The result wasn't in doubt, but the Cherry and Whites laboured to secure a crucial try bonus point.
Speaking to the local media this week, Gloucester Rugby centre Matt Scott is excited to take the field again as the Cherry and Whites look to build on the win in Bayonne when Treviso come to Kingsholm this Saturday.
Defence Coach Jonny Bell admitted this week that the European Rugby Challenge Cup victory in Bayonne was a welcome one, stressed that Benetton Treviso will pose a tough test on Saturday at Kingsholm but that Gloucester are determined to deliver in front of their own fans.
Motu Matu'u is looking to make up for lost time this week as the Cherry and Whites head to Basque Country to take on Bayonne in the European Rugby Challenge Cup opener. The Samoan hooker made his first appearance in the jersey last weekend, and is hoping to contribute to the team this weekend.
Gloucester's attentions turn to Europe this weekend as they travel to Bayonne for their opening fixture of this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup. Forwards Coach Trevor Woodman told GRTV that the Cherry and Whites will be aiming to top their pool as they've done for the past two seasons, but is well aware of how tough it is to win in France.
Although understandably disappointed at seeing victory slip away at the last minute, Ben Morgan said after the game at Exeter that there were plenty of positives that Gloucester could take from the game.
A number of Gloucester Rugby's promising young players are currently playing their competitive rugby on loan at other clubs, and six of them featured in Saturday's game between London Welsh and Rotherham Titans.
Gloucester made it two wins from two outings in this season's European Rugby Challenge Cup as they outplayed Benetton Treviso at Kingsholm to win by 37 points to 8, the bonus point try coming with the final play of the game.