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Five Bears named in England U18 squad for February camp

Five Bristol Bears Academy U18 players have been included in a 46-player England U18 training squad for this week’s development camp at Bisham Abbey National Sports Centre.

Charlie Rice, George Taylor, Andrew Turner, Deago Bailey and Tom Wilstead (pictured left to right, above) were all named in head coach Jonathan Pendlebury’s squad for the four-day camp, which ran from February 20th-23rd.

England U18s will play two standalone fixtures against Scotland at Hawick RFC (Sunday, March 15th, 2pm KO) and France in Bourges (Sunday, March 22nd, 4pm KO local time), before April’s U18 Six Nations Festival in France.

The U18 Six Nations Festival is competed by England, France, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy with each nation playing three fixtures over two weeks.

The squad are led by new head coach Jonathan Pendlebury, who is assisted by Darlington Mowden Park coach Mark Luffman (forwards) and Harlequins academy coach Mark Mapletoft (backs) for the season.

Former England international Mapletoft has previous experience of coaching in the player pathway having been England U20s coach and also held a senior role at Harlequins until 2019. Luffman has coached in the pathway since 2014 – and continues his role with England U18s.

Players have been selected by pathway staff based on their performances in the U18 academy league, as well as school competitions and also in consultation with academy managers from the 14 regional academies.

The camp will also allow coaches to discuss playing principles and themes with the squad ahead of the two standalone fixtures, as well as the U18 Six Nations Festival. Players will be encouraged to explore the boundaries of their game during training.

In addition, six players will be invited into camp as part of the wider squad as a way to support their future development.

Jonathan Pendlebury said: "My first priority is to get to know these players as well as I can. The players are the pathway.

"As a pathway management team we want to support the players in their development towards being full time senior academy players and future internationals as well as help them fulfil their potential as senior players in the game.

"The sessions will be a step up from the last 10 weeks of U18 academy league fixtures that they have participated in. I expect the players to ‘explore boundaries’ which could be a way of playing or executing a skill or tactic and look to learn something from each session and particularly each game that may support their progression in the game.

"We will explore different themes in attack, defence and transition and how we execute or look to utilise these will be a main theme for the U18 group going forwards."