Stephenson says England will have to up their game to claim Six Nations title

AIMING FOR TITLE GLORY - Tom Stephenson
AIMING FOR TITLE GLORY - Tom Stephenson

Saints Academy youngster Tom Stephenson says England Under-20s are going to have to up their game if they want to claim Six Nations title glory on Friday night.

Just like the Under-20s’ senior counterparts, England face a final-match showdown with the Welsh, who are also going for the Grand Slam after beating Scotland at the weekend.

England set up their title chance with a dominant 52-7 win over Italy at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday night, with second-half substitute Stephenson scoring one of his country’s six tries.

The 18-year-old was delighted that England secured the win, but admitted they are going to have to improve their performance levels if they want to beat Wales and seal the title.

“First and foremost it was great to get the win,” said Stephenson, who was one of four Saints youngsters involved in Friday night’s game.

“Italy was always going to be a fairly hard game; I think that’s the biggest scoreline against them in this Six Nations.

“However it wasn’t the performance that we were looking for and we’ll have step up against Wales if we’re going to win that game and win the Six Nations.

“Our intent was good, but the conditions were slippy and we maybe tried to force the offloads and made handling mistakes.

“In the second half we picked up our intensity.”

Saints products Stephenson, Danny Herriott and Alex Day all came off the bench to play their part for England, while Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi played from the start.

A crowd just shy of 8,000 turned out to watch the game, and Stephenson, told www.northamptonsaints.co.uk: “It was a great crowd here.

“We’d been told it was going to be a big crowd and it was.

“And I certainly wasn’t expecting to get a try. If you saw the smile on my face when I scored it that would have said everything.

“I don’t get too many tries, so when I do I enjoy them!

“Credit to the forwards, too, who made our job a lot easier.”

And he also spoke of his pride at playing for his country on his club ground.

“I said earlier in the week that playing with the boys you train with every day at Saints and then stepping into the international scene is pretty good,” said Stephenson.

“We’ve known each other for four or five years and to pull on the white shirt together is a great experience.”

Friday night’s clash against Wales will be played at Eirias Park in Colwyn Bay, and kicks-off at 7.30pm.