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.
Previewing Friday evening's local derby at Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell told the local media that Gloucester's preparations have gone well and that the whole squad is united in trying to finish the season on a high.
Speaking to GRTV this week, Acting Head Coach Jonny Bell spoke of his pleasure in the efforts and intensity in training from the squad after a tricky few weeks. The team were preparing for big games with Bristol and Cardiff in coming weeks.
Willi Heinz was understandably and visibly disappointed when he spoke to GRTV after the 27-30 home defeat to Harlequins, apologising to the home support as the game slipped away after seemingly having the game under control.
Speaking to the local media this week, Scottish centre Matt Scott spoke of the squad's determination to put in a big home performance against Harlequins, with vital points up for grabs in the hunt for a Top Six spot this Saturday (KO 3pm)
Looking ahead to Saturday's Aviva Premiership fixture at home to Harlequins (kick off 3pm), Head Coach Laurie Fisher told the local media that Gloucester will need to be on top of their game in a match which has big implications in terms of top six ambitions.
A big few days for the Gloucester-Hartpury Women side. First came the news that the team will compete in Women's Super Rugby next season, and on Saturday the team will play Worcester Ladies IIs at Kingsholm. Centre Hannah Jones and wing Michelle Ruddock spoke to GRTV this week to reflect on events.
In the aftermath of the Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol, Interim Head Coach Jonny Bell was able to look forward to this weekend's European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-final against Cardiff Blues (Kingsholm, kick off 8:05pm).
Missing so many starters, and up against a team fighting for their Premiership existence, Gloucester did what had to be done at Ashton Gate on Friday evening battling their way to a 32-14 Aviva Premiership win over Bristol Rugby.