Norfolk duo excited for start of England duty at World Rugby U20 Championship
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Three months ago former Wymondham junior Will Evans was an academy player at Leicester Tigers dreaming of a bright future – now his career has moved into the fast lane.
The 19-year-old flanker became the second-youngest forward to start a Premiership match for Leicester in April and is in the England Under-20s squad for the World Rugby Championships.
Throw into the mix two tries in the following three top-flight games which followed and Evans heads into the Manchester event on a real high.
'In no way do I want to get too far ahead of myself,' said the former Wymondham College pupil, who missed out a place in the team for tonight's opener against Italy.
'I've only made four Premiership appearances and I haven't made any appearances for the under-20s yet, so I'm thoroughly keeping my feet on the ground. I've got good people around me, good coaches who will keep me on the ground, my friends and family like keeping my feet on the floor, so I should be fine.'
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The Norwich-born teenager has represented England at U18, U17 and U19 level but was yet to be involved with the U20s until bursting through with Leicester.
Ten former U20 representatives started for Eddie Jones' senior team as France were beaten and England wrapped up their first Six Nations Grand Slam in 13 years in March.
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Amongst them was lock Maro Itoje, who just two years ago was an U20s player and has now also just celebrated a domestic and European double with Saracens – showing just how important involvement in the England junior ranks can be.
'With the names around me, there are people who have played in the Premiership before this season and had a really good season,' Evans continued.
'So to be amongst players like that is quite an honour really and to put on the training kit is quite an experience to be honest with you.
'It's every boy's little dream to put on the Red Rose so to do that in front of your home nation and in front of my friends and family, that will be quite an experience. With the people around me wearing that same shirt, whenever my first game comes, that will be a very proud moment for me.'
England have done well in the World U20s tournament in recent years, beating Wales in the final in France in 2013 and South Africa in the final in New Zealand in 2014.
Last year the crown was taken by New Zealand and Evans says Martin Haag's squad are fired up to win back the title.
'With the players who have gone on to play for England, you always aspire to be like them,' said the forward, who grew up in Woodton, near Bungay.
'Obviously we're very proud of the success we've had in this tournament before but we're hoping to etch our mark on the tournament, hopefully go through and do well in it.'
England start against Italy at the Manchester City Academy stadium tonight (7.45pm), with Scotland and Australia also in their group.
'When the Azzuri turn up it's always a tough game,' Evans said of tonight's clash. 'We'll take every team the same but obviously Italy's our first game so we're just taking it as it comes and not getting too far ahead of us. We're thoroughly focused on the task in hand.'
England U20s v Italy – 7.45pm (live on Sky Sports One): 15 Darren Atkins (Bath Rugby), 14 Sam Aspland-Robinson (Harlequins), 13 Joe Marchant (Harlequins), 12 Harry Mallinder (captain – Northampton Saints), 11 Ollie Thorley (Gloucester Rugby), 10 Theo Brophy-Clews (London Irish), 9 Max Green (Yorkshire Carnegie); 1 Tom West (Wasps), 2 Jack Singleton (Worcester Warriors), 3 Billy Walker (Saracens), 4 Andrew Kitchener (Worcester Warriors), 5 Huw Taylor (Worcester Warriors), 6 George Nott (Sale Sharks), 7 Jack Willis (Wasps), 8 Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons).
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker (Yorkshire Carnegie), 17 Lewis Boyce (Yorkshire Carnegie), 18 Will Stuart (Wasps), 19 Zach Mercer (Bath Rugby), 20 Josh Bainbridge (Yorkshire Carnegie), 21 Harry Randall (Gloucester Rugby), 22 Johnny Williams (London Irish), 23 Max Malins (Saracens)