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Press Release Issued by Rugby Football Union

England Students Head Coach Darren Fearn has selected his 23-player squad to face France Universities at Coventry Rugby Club on Saturday 4 May. 

England Students, a representative team of players drawn from universities across England, are looking to secure their third consecutive victory in this annual fixture that marks the end of the university rugby season. Tickets are available here and the match will be available to watch on the England Rugby YouTube channel.  

England Students secured a thrilling 25-21 victory over France Universities when the sides last met on Saturday 6 May 2023, marking the side's first win on French soil in 17 years. 

The fixture serves as an exciting opportunity for some of the brightest young talent in the university game, drawn from ten different universities, to perform on a representative stage. Among those who have represented England Students in recent years are Olympic 7s silver medallist Dan Bibby, Bristol Bears back row Fitz Harding, Bath Rugby hooker Tom Dunn, and Exeter Chiefs tighthead prop Harry Williams, as well as England Rugby greats such as GB 7s captain Tom Mitchell, and Rugby World Cup winners Josh Lewsey, Will Greenwood and Lawrence Dallaglio.  

As the second biggest university sport, this year has been another outstanding year for university rugby union, with approximately 12,000 students regularly participating in rugby activity across BUCS leagues and other programmes.  

In BUCS Super Rugby, the University of Exeter took the league by storm, winning 16 out of 18 matches, and scoring 107 league tries. Five of the selected England Students squad are drawn from Exeter’s league winners. League runners-up Loughborough, who provide four members of the squad, overcame Exeter in a tense National Championship Final, beating Exeter 35-31. 

In the Women’s National League, Hartpury University secured a league and cup double, taking their cup victories to three consecutive years. The league has produced dozens of PWR and Celtic Challenge players, proving the significance of the Women’s National League in the university rugby pathway. 

Darren Fearn, England Students Head Coach, said: “Coventry is a great club with a rich history; we’re hoping to get a big crowd down on the 4th May to support the England Students side versus French Students. It’s always a really exciting test match and a great spectacle. I'm sure there’s going to be a lot of future Premiership, Championship and Top 14 players on show, as there has been for the last numerous years.

“It’s always a tough challenge against the French. We went over to France last year and got our first win there for 17 years, which was special. They’re always a really strong opposition, and they’ve got players who go on to play Top 14 and Pro D2. A lot of players from England Students over the years have gone on to play regularly in the Premiership and the Championship. It’s a great development opportunity, it’s a great test match, and it’s always a good rugby game!” 

Phil de Glanville, Students’ RFU Council Member and President, said: “The Students’ RFU role is to grow, develop and advocate for university rugby in England. By bringing together the best talent from across the English and French student populations to battle it out on the field of play, each nation aims to shine a spotlight on university rugby and the power it has to uncover and develop the next generation of professional players.

“This match builds on the experience of those players who are already receiving superb competition opportunities through BUCS Super Rugby throughout the season. I wish both teams well.” 

England Students squad to face France Universities (includes university):

Barnaby Waddell (Cardiff Met) 

Callum Hancock (Leeds Beckett) 

Charlie Briers (Loughborough) 

Charlie McCaig (Exeter) 

Connor Hancock (Leeds Beckett) 

Connor Moyse (Nottingham) 

Eric Nixon (Loughborough) 

George Taylor (Loughborough) 

Iwan Price-Thomas (Bath) 

Jack Forsythe (Exeter) 

Jay Ecclesfield (Nottingham Trent) 

Joe Mounsey (Newcastle) 

Joshua MacAndrew (Exeter) 

Josiah Edwards-Giraud (Hartpury) 

Louis Kirkham (Leeds Beckett) 

Lucas Dorrell (Exeter) 

Max Pepper (Durham) 

Morgan Meredith (Loughborough) 

Oliver Fletcher (Newcastle) 

Rhys William Price (Hartpury) 

Tom Gulley (Exeter) 

Thomas Matthews (Hartpury) 

Will Jeanes (Bath) 

The squad will come together to train at RAF Cosford, Albrighton, led by Head Coach Darren Fearn, Newcastle University’s Director of Rugby, alongside Gareth Nesbit and Mark Matzopoulous as Assistant Coaches, and Andrew Kennedy as Team Manager. The squad will then move to Warwick Conferences at the University of Warwick ahead of the clash. 

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