ENGLAND STUDENTS have named the 22-man squad to meet France Universities at Richmond FC’s Athletic Ground on Friday February 25 (7.30pm kick-off). The squad will be captained by 23-year-old Loughborough University second row Will Warden, who has Bristol University centre Tom Mitchell as his vice captain.

It should be a tough opening assignment in a three-match England Students programme that continues with a trip to Lisbon to take on Portgual’s national side – currently ranked 20th in the world by the International Rugby Board – on March 5 and a rematch with France Universities in Versailles on March 26. Paul Westgate is entering his eighth campaign coaching England university teams. And the director of sport at Uppingham School in Rutland is in his third year as England Students’ head coach with James Farndon as his assistant.

“In the first year with me and James together we won four out of four and last year, 2010, we won one, lost two,” said Westgate. “This season is a step up from the previous two when the opposition included Irish Colleges and the Netherlands. France will be tough. Their student players tend to be attached to Top 14 clubs so their day to day rugby is different and they play less university rugby then ours do. We are excited and we believe we have got a very strong squad capable of playing good rugby. The coaches’ philosophy is to put a framework together and allow the players to take ownership of the team and take responsibility. These guys have good core skills and our job is to enable them to play.”

In 2010 England Students lost by three points away to Portugal and had a big win over Irish Colleges in the snow of Gosforth. They lost 35-22 to France Universities in Riom. The squad of 22 includes six players previously capped by England Students: Will Warden, Tom Mitchell, Adam Bellamy, Alex Waddingham, Louis Messer and Paul Roberts, the Bath University fly half who was called up in a change to the original squad of 26.

There are six representatives from Loughborough and four from UWIC in Cardiff. “We beat the French two years ago and it would be great to kick off 2011 with the same result,” said Westgate, who has Peter Drewett alongside him, returning to the England fold as the Students’ team manager.

Tickets for Friday’s match are £10 adults, £5 students and free to U16s, available on the gate or by calling Richmond FC on 020 8940 0397.

England Students squad, v France Universities, Athletic Ground, Richmond, Friday February 25, k-o 7.30pm:

Backs: Fred Burdon (Cambridge, centre), Alex Cheesman (Oxford, centre), Callum Grant (Reading, scrum half), Louis Messer (UWIC, full back), Sam Miller (Bath, wing), Tom Mitchell (Bristol, centre, vice-capt), Chris Reakes (Exeter, fly half), Paul Roberts (Bath, fly half), Ed Styles (Loughborough, wing / full back), Russell Weir (Loughborough, scrum half).

Forwards: Adam Bellamy (Bristol, hooker), Richard Boyle (Northumbria, second row), Richard de Carpentier (UWIC, No.8), Samuel Lockwood (Leeds Met, prop), Mike Macfarlane (Loughborough, No.8), Mohammed Mustafa (Liverpool, prop), Camilo Parilli-Ocampo (Loughborough, prop), Tom Sargeant (Exeter, flanker), Matt Smith (UWIC, second row), Alex Waddingham (Loughborough, flanker), Will Warden (Loughborough, second row, capt), Jack Yeandle (UWIC, hooker).

England Students Fixtures 2010-11

Friday February 25 v France Universities, Richmond

Saturday March 5 v Portugal, Lisbon

Saturday March 26 v France Universities, Versailles.