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Zach Mercer to lead England U20 against Italy

England Under 20 have made eight changes to the starting line-up for their Six Nations match against Italy at the Northern Echo Arena on Friday (7:45pm kick off).

Jamie Blamire, Josh Caulfield, Ben Curry, Ciaran Knight and Alex Mitchell all start for the first time in the match which will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Mix.

In addition, Harlequins wing Sam Aspland-Robinson and Saracens’ Jack Nay return after missing the match against Wales in Colwyn Bay. Saracens centre Dominic Morris starts at outside centre to earn his third England U20 cap.

Zach Mercer will captain the team following Ben Earl’s knee injury which ruled him out of the tournament.

Mercer, who has featured regularly in the Aviva Premiership for Bath this season, received the Man of the Match award against Wales. The 19-year old’s stand-out performance included a fantastic individual effort to score a late try which sealed England’s second win of this season’s Six Nations.

England Under 20 coach Tom Williams said: “Zach Mercer loves to chat among the group and isn’t afraid of expressing his opinion. That coupled with his leadership qualities and experience meant that he was the first name that came to mind when we lost Ben Earl through injury.”

Rory Brand, Max Davies, Marcus Smith, Marcus Street and Henry Walker are named among the replacements and could all make their England U20 debuts.

Harlequins fly-half Smith and Exeter Chiefs front row forward Street have been promoted from the England Under 18 squad after recently impressing in last week’s Premiership Rugby Under 18 Academy Finals Day at Sixways Stadium.

England U20 team to face Italy U20:

15. Tom Parton (London Irish)
14. Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins)
13. Dominic Morris (Saracens)
12. Max Wright (Yorkshire Carnegie)
11. Gabriel Ibitoye (Harlequins)
10. Jacob Umaga (Wasps)
9. Alex Mitchell (Northampton Saints)
1. Ollie Dawe (Bristol Rugby)
2. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons)
3. Ciaran Knight (Gloucester Rugby)
4. Josh Caulfield (Exeter Chiefs)
5. Nick Isiekwe (Saracens)
6. Jack Nay (Saracens)
7. Ben Curry (Sale Sharks)
8. Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby) captain

Replacements:

16. Henry Walker (Gloucester Rugby)
17. Alex Seville (Gloucester Rugby)
18. Marcus Street (Exeter Chiefs)
19. Max Davies (Newcastle Falcons)
20. Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby)
21. Rory Brand (London Irish)
22. Marcus Smith (Harlequins)
23. Joe Cokanasiga (London Irish)

England U20’s 2017 Six Nations fixtures:

All of England’s remaining U20 Six Nations fixtures will be shown live on Sky Sports.

England 59 – 17 France: Saturday 4th February – Sandy Park, Exeter
Wales 21 – 37 England: Friday 10th February – Eirias Park, Colwyn Bay
England v Italy: Friday 24th February – Darlington Mowden Park (7:45pm KO)
England v Scotland: Saturday 11th March – Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton (6:15pm KO)
Ireland v England: Friday 17th March – Donnybrook Stadium, (6:00pm KO)

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