Northampton Saints flanker Lewis Ludlam and Newcastle Falcons lock Will Witty return to the starting line-up for tomorrow’s semi-final of the World Rugby U20 Championship against South Africa in Calvisano.
Both players made their debuts against Japan and are the only changes to the side that lost 30-18 in the final pool game against France.
It was the squad’s first defeat since the opening game of the Six Nations but head coach Jon Callard has been pleased with the positive response of the players.
“It was a disappointing game but the attitude and bounce back has been first class,” he said.
“There is a renewed energy and ambition in the group and, while the format of this competition is demanding, it does mean that within a matter of days we have the opportunity to put right what we didn’t do against France."
France play New Zealand in the other semi-final while South Africa, the highest performing team in the group stages, play England in a repeat of last year’s final.
“Every year is different,” said Callard. “This is a new group of players and this is their chance to show what they are capable of.
“It is both a privilege and an honour for them to be in the same bracket as South Africa, France and New Zealand, but we need to put in performances that prove we have the right to be there.
“We have watched South Africa extensively and they are a forward-orientated side, with good half backs that can move the team around the field well, and they have an electric back three.
“This is why we come to these tournaments – you want to play against the best, to learn and develop through challenging fixtures. We are excited about the proposition that is ahead of us.”
In the first two rounds Ludlam won more turnovers than any other player in the tournament and Witty was named in the World Rugby Dream Team following his performance against Japan.
Squad rotation and management is crucial for a successful campaign and Callard believes these players bring the right qualities for this opposition.
He added: “Lewis is an outstanding player and Will really imposed himself in the game against Japan, we are very pleased with him.
“They offer the physicality and athleticism that will be needed against a very good South African side.”
England v South Africa:
15. Aaron Morris (Saracens)
14. George Perkins (Saracens)
13. Nick Tompkins (Saracens)
12. Max Clark (Bath Rugby)
11. Howard Packman (Northampton Saints)
10. Rory Jennings (Bath Rugby)
9. James Mitchell (Sale Sharks)
1. Ellis Genge (Bristol Rugby)
2. Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie)
3. Paul Hill (Yorkshire Carnegie)
4. Will Witty (Newcastle Falcons)
5. Charlie Ewels (Bath Rugby, Captain)
6. Lewis Ludlam (Northampton)
7. Will Owen (Leicester Tigers)
8. James Chisholm (Harlequins)
16. Jack Innard (Exeter Chiefs)
17. Sebastian Adeniran-Olule (Harlequins)
18. Ciaran Parker (Sale Sharks)
19. Kieran Treadwell (Harlequins)
20. Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs)
21. Will Homer (Bath Rugby)
22. Lloyd Evans (Gloucester)
23. Piers O’Conor (Wasps)
England's Schedule (Live on BT Sport):
June 2, England 59 – 7 Japan, KO 5.30pm BST, Stadio San Michele Calvisano
June 6, England 30 – 16 Wales, KO 7.30pm BST, Stadio San Michele Calvisano
June 10, England 18 – 30 France, KO 3.30pm BST, Stadio Luigi Zaffanella Viadana
June 15, England v South Africa, KO 7.30pm BST, Stadio San Michele Calvisano
June 20, Final and third place play off, Details TBC