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.
Skipper Billy Twelvetrees told GRTV after the win in Brive that the game could have been a tough one to get up for, but that his Gloucester team mates did themselves proud on the night and got a big result.
Reflecting on the 31-20 victory in Brive on Thursday evening, Director of Rugby David Humphreys said that clinching a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final was the overall aim and duly achieved.
Gloucester may have already clinched a home European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final, but Director of Rugby David Humphreys wants his side to finish the pool stages on a winning note in Brive on Thursday evening.
Speaking after Saturday's win, James Hudson was happy to record a bonus-point win against a hugely physical Oyonnax side as Gloucester secured their passage into the European Rugby Challenge Cup Quarter Finals
Billy Burns was a try scorer on his first European start for Gloucester and, speaking after the game, admitted that it was good to get the five points although there are still things to work on before the trip to Brive.
Gloucester Rugby have added to their front row strength in depth for next season with the signings of Paul Doran-Jones, Paddy McAllister and Nicky Thomas from Harlequins, Aurillac and the Ospreys respectively.
Connacht's 30-20 win in La Rochelle on Saturday evening means that they are the third best placed runners up and will come to Kingsholm for the quarter-final of the European Rugby Challenge Cup in early April.