The Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend and it is a competition that has managed to reinvent itself in the last couple of years.
Few could tell you who won it last year, without the help of Google, but that misses what is good about the competition: the opportunity to see younger players.
The Premiership is a competition centred around hard slog and high intensity, week in and week out. It is not an environment where coaches willingly throw young, untested talent into.
England have been to the last five under-20 World Cup Finals, winning three of them. These players need to somewhere outside of dreary A league games to showcase their talents.
The Anglo-Welsh Cup has become a great avenue for this. Players like Zach Mercer, Nick Isiekwe and new England squad member Sam Simmonds have all made a big impact on the competition.
Not to mention Maro Itoje, the Lions star was a key part of the Saracens side that won the competition in 2015.
Below is a list of five young English* players looking to break into people’s consciousness this year:
Ben Earl – The typically abrasive Saracens flanker has been involved in the Premiership already this year. He makes this list because along he has been brought into the Sarries’ leadership group for the competition.
That is a sure sign he is highly rated within the club. A couple of good performances could see him knocking on the door of regular Premiership game time and if you are playing regularly for a team like Saracens, you cannot be too far from England.
Cameron Redpath – He is yet to complete his A-levels, but Cameron Redpath starts at 12 for Sale Sharks. The playmaking inside-centre has a Scottish international father in Brian Redpath but has lined out for England at age grade level.
Like any kid with a famous surname, it can be easier to get yourself noticed by the right people, but it takes a special talent to start in a professional side before finishing school. It will be very interesting to see how he goes on Friday night.
Will Butler – Will Butler starts for Worcester in the 12 shirt. He played in the 2017 under-20 World Cup and is eligible next year for the senior squad. Having already played for the full side in last year’s Challenge Cup, he will be looking to make a big impact in the Anglo-Welsh Cup this year.
He has captained the A side already this season and will be looking to continue that form in front of the BT cameras on Friday night.
Max Malins – The Saracens number 10 like Earl has also being brought into the leadership group for this competition. Not a surprise inclusion on the list, The former under 20 captain, Malins has been tipped by many to succeed at the highest level.
A relaxed 10 with great distribution and a solid kicking game, he is both fortunate and unfortunate that he is at the same club as two international fly halves in Owen Farrell and Alex Lozowski. The Anglo Welsh will be his first chance to take the reins of the European champions.
Gabriel Ibitoye – Anyone who saw a couple of Ibitoye’s finishes at the under 20 World Cup in June will be bristling with excitement at this Harlequin’s prospect. Exceptionally quick and powerful the 19-year-old, can play both on the wing and in the center.
With Marcus Smith having already established himself in the Quins first team, Ibitoye will hope to be the next one off the production line and establish himself in the first team.
*Welsh teams are still on Pro14 duty and do not get involved until next week