England have more rugby talent than ever

England’s academy systems are producing more high quality young players than ever before according to Under 18 head coach John Fletcher.

England completed a third successive Grand Slam and extended their winning run to 18 games since the summer of 2007 with this week’s 41-17 victory over Ireland.

Hooker Koree Britton, wing Charlie Walker, flanker Chris Walker, centre Elliot Daly, fly half George Ford and full back Ben Ransom all touched down at Llandovery.

Their season opened with the 30-28 win against Australia at Heywood Road and England went on to beat France 33-16, Italy 28-12, Wales 43-22 and Scotland 29-9.

England reshaped their age group programmes in 2006-07 to startling effect at Under 18 and Under 20 levels with the latter side reaching the last two IRB Junior World Championship finals.

Two players from that first Under 18 generation of 2006-07 – Leicester Tigers scrum half Ben Youngs and Northampton Saints lock Courtney Lawes – have already been capped at senior level.

“From a Guinness Premiership point of view and a national point of view the game at this level is very healthy,” said Fletcher.

“The regional academies, the clubs and schools are doing a great job. These boys turn up to us in great shape mentally, physically, technically and tactically and what we do is create a good environment and encourage them to play with freedom and ambition and spirit.

“The regional academies identify players earlier, they’re more specifically tailoring their individual and playing programmes, and nationally through (Elite Rugby Director) Rob Andrew and (Head of National Academy) Stuart Lancaster we’ve now got a very good programme for our teams that’s pretty much the envy of the rest of the world.”

Fletcher’s side exceeded their target of four tries per game by touching down 28 times in six outings.

“I’m a big believer that at this level you’ve got to play a very expansive game with as many threats for the opposition as possible,” he said. “That we’ve done that is really pleasing.”

Captain George Ford signed off with a try against Ireland – one of 14 different players to get on the scoresheet for England in the six games.

Rishworth and Leicester Tigers fly half Ford said: “We’ve got better as the season’s gone on and the more we’ve played together – we’ve managed to keep our standards high and score some good tries.

“The way we play anyone can score and everyone gets involved. That’s the way we’ve trained and it’s paid off with tries again against Ireland.”

Whitgift and London Irish wing Marland Yarde finished as the leading try-scorer with six in six games, including four against Scotland on Good Friday.

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