England will aim to defend their Junior World Championship title on Friday as they take on South Africa in Friday’s final at Eden Park.
The Under 20 conveyor belt which has recently produced Joe Launchbury, Owen Farrell, George Ford, Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell and Marland Yarde, with graduates filling Stuart Lancaster’s senior squad at an ever-accelerating rate.
Nick Walshe’s side raced into a third final in four years with a 42-15 victory over Ireland as Harry Sloan, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, Howard Packman, Tom Woolstencroft and Gus Jones all crossed the whitewash.
An uncompromising and dominant semi-final display has led to Walshe retaining the same starting XV for Friday’s showpiece event, with the lone change to the squad coming among the replacements.
Saracens’ athletic second-row forward Maro Itoje, who has already made his Premiership debut, captains the side from lock, where he partners Bath’s Charlie Ewels. They are behind a front row of Ross Moriarty of Gloucester, London Wasps flanker Gus Jones and Harlequins’ James Chisholm.
England’s backline is brimming with talent and Saracens winger Nathan Earle has caught the attention of many on his way to securing an IRB Junior Player of the Year nomination.
The strong and powerful flyer has scored five tries in the competition so far, including a hat-trick against Italy in England’s opening match, and lines up opposite Northampton Saints winger Packman.
Bedford Blues’ free-running full-back Aaron Morris retains the No 15 jersey, while former England Under 17 captain Nick Tompkins forms a midfield partnership with Sloan.
Billy Burns, the younger brother of Freddie who starts in the senior squad’s final Test against the All Blacks on Saturday, resumes at fly-half alongside Henry Taylor, while the one change on the bench sees prop Biyi Alo come in for Harry Rudkin.
England are looking to defend the crown they secured in France last term, when they beat Wales 23-15, and coach Walshe understands a physical Baby Boks side will provide a stern test.
“This is a great opportunity for our guys – they have been excellent all trip and have fully deserved to get to where they are,” he said.
“South Africa will be a difficult challenge, but we’re focusing on ourselves – we’re putting a real emphasis on performing for the full 80 minutes, we feel that we have played well in patches throughout the tournament but we want to see a complete performance.”
South Africa earned their shot at the trophy by coming from behind to beat the New Zealand Baby Blacks for a second time in the competition, in the process maintaining their unbeaten record in the 2014 event.
The Baby Boks are led by Bulls pivot Handre Pollard, whose Super Rugby experience offers extra depth to a South African line-up which boasts a powerful forward pack.
England: 15 Morris, 14 Packman, 13 Tompkins, 12 Sloan, 11 Earle, 10 Burns, 9 Taylor; 1 Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2 Woolstencroft, 3 Hill, 4 Itoje, (capt), 5 Ewels, 6 Moriarty, 7 Jones, 8 Chisholm
Replacements: 16 Walker, 17 Lundberg, 18 Alo, 19 Thompson-Stringer, 20 Conlon, 21 Braley, 22 Olver, 23 Purdy
South Africa: 15 Grant, 14 D Kriel, J Kriel, 12 Esterhuizen, 11 Petersen, 10 Pollard (capt), 9 Smith; 1 Du Toit, 2 Els, 3 Van der Westhuizen, 4 Schickerling, 5 Van Rensburg, 6 Vermeulen, 7 Brink, 8 Davis
Replacements: 16 Dweba, 17 Schoeman, 18 Louw, 19 Sekekete, 20 Du Preez, 21 Mkhabela, 22 Du Plessis, 23 Van der Merwe
You can watch England v South Africa live on Sky Sports 2HD on Friday at 6am