Lock Ewan Richards says revenge is on the menu for England against Italy in the Under-20 Six Nations Summer Series Finals Day, writes Josh Graham in Treviso.
After finishing second in their respective Pools, the pair will meet on Tuesday night at Benetton’s Stadio Comunale di Monigo, where the Azzurrini triumphed 6-0 in February to record their first-ever Six Nations Under-20s victory over England.
Richards missed that encounter after Premiership strugglers Bath declined to release him during his breakthrough season but is relishing the chance to take on Italy in their own backyard.
The 20-year-old, who was called up by Eddie Jones for a brief senior training squad in May, said: “I think it will be great, in front of the Italian crowd - I don’t think you can beat that really.
“I’ve watched their games recently and they’ve had some good numbers there, so it’s definitely going to be exciting.
“The boys have mentioned it, losing 6-0 you can’t do much about it but you don’t want to be losing in general.
“So, I think it’s going to be a bit of revenge but also we want to go out there and show what we can do and hopefully get that result.
“It is my last game at Under-20s level, so hopefully we can finish on a high and that will be it for me unfortunately. It’s going to be an emotional day I reckon.”
England’s last Summer Series clash against reigning Grand Slam champions Ireland ended in an agonising 37-36 defeat which head coach Alan Dickens admitted left his side feeling dejected.
But he is tipping his players to bounce back stronger and use their experience from this year’s Championship clash to help negate Italy’s set-piece and come out on the right side of the result this time around.
Dickens said: “The boys were very disappointed [after Ireland] but they have an opportunity to put things right and I’ve no doubt they will put their best foot forward and put on a good performance.
“With the Six Nations experience at the same venue, we know what a strong outfit Italy are and are in no doubt of the task ahead.
“When we played Italy the first time, they had a very, very strong set-piece and that hasn’t changed.
“It allowed them to get front-foot ball, they got penalties from scrums and the maul which gave them territory and it was a tough evening back in February.”
While Dickens has opted to start with Richards on the bench, one man who will be lining up against the home side from the off is wing Iwan Stephens.
The cross-code convert admits he had no clue what he was doing in rugby union just a year ago but after getting to grips with the 15-a-side game has even managed to make dad Colin - a former Wales international fly-half - proud of him wearing the Red Rose.
Stephens, who was let go by the Leeds Rhinos academy at the height of the pandemic before joining Newcastle Falcons, said: “The first year of union was quite tough, I didn’t know what was going on.
“My first year, which was last year, was just getting into rugby, getting used to what’s what. When this year came around, I was quite confident playing rugby union but it was hard in the first year.
“We used to practice diving into the corner quite a lot in league and that’s one big thing that has come over.
“I think my dad is proud of me, it’s one of those things - any international call-up is pretty good. I think he is proud even though it’s with England!
“It would be a good way to leave the 20s with a big win over Italy. I’ve met some good lads and made some good friends that I’ll always have.”
The Six Nations Under-20 Summer Series takes place from 24 June – 12 July. Fans can watch every match live. For more information visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJHm6BFw-9JRA1CMekNLwMg