England rugby team are top seeds for Commonwealth Youth Game
Some of England's brightest young rugby prospects are preparing to go into action in the rugby sevens tournament at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Australia.
The 12-strong England squad borrows heavily from the England Rugby's National Academy, which trains regularly at the University of Bath under the experienced eye of Academy manager Brian Ashton.
England's young rugby guns go into the Commonwealth competition as top seeds. The rugby seedings for the Bendigo 2004 Games are based on the senior sevens seedings and with world number ones New Zealand absent from the tournament, England step up to top spot.
England are captained by one of the Junior National Academy players, 18-year-old Millfield School student Anthony Allen, who is also on the books of NEC Harlequins.
Several players were unavailable for the tournament through injury. But the squad also features National Academy players Danny Care, Daniel Cipriani, Mike Myerscough, Uche Oduoza, Jordan Turner-Hall and Dominic Waldouck.
England kick-off their campaign in the pool stages with matches against the Cook Islands, Samoa and Fiji on Thursday 2nd December, bidding for a favourable quarter-final draw for the following day, when the competition proceeds to the finals and positional play-offs.
England Team manager John Elliott said: "We've picked a strong squad of players, so we would expect to do pretty well. Many of them come from the Junior National Academy, so by definition they are some of the stronger and better players in their age group.
"We don't really know what we're going to come up against when we get there," he added. "The Australians and South Africans will be tough, but the unknown quantities are people like Fiji and Samoa. They seem to be natural sevens players at senior level, but it could be that they have already developed into good sevens players at this age."
Elliott believes the Games will also have a healthy spin-off for the development of the players.
"It's not just a question of doing well, it's a great development opportunity for these boys," he said. "In sevens they get space to play in and good players can develop a lot, which can benefit them as 15-aside players. Our ultimate objective is to try to produce better 15-aside players for our national sides."
England's rugby sevens team play in Pool A with Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands, with Australia, South Africa, Scotland and Singapore in Pool B.
The full England rugby squad for Bendigo 2004 is:
|Name||D o B||Home||Club|
|Danny Care||02.02.87||Leeds||Leeds Tykes|
|Daniel Cipriani||02.11.87||Oxshott, Surrey||London Wasps|
|Mike Myerscough||28.05.86||Bude, Cornwall||Bath|
|Uche Oduoza||15.10.86||Codsall, Staffs||Worcester|
|Adam Powell||01.01.87||Romford, Essex||Saracens|
|Dominic Shaboo||25.01.86||Oxshott, Surrey||London Irish|
|David Tait||05.07.87||Sale||Sale Sharks|
|Jordon Turner-Hall||05.01.88||Hastings, E Sussex||Harlequins|
|Dominic Waldouck||26.09.87||London||London Wasps|
Team England is taking an 86-strong squad of athletes to Bendigo in Australia to compete in nine sports at the second Commonwealth Youth Games, which take place from 30th November to 3rd December.