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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
English rugby's young guns
By James Standley

Tom Varndell in action for club side Leicester at the pre-season Middlesex Sevens
Tom Varndell burst onto the scene last season for club and country

The new Premiership season kicks off on Saturday with competition for places at the 12 clubs stronger than ever.

As standards rise on and off the pitch it becomes ever harder for young English players to make the breakthrough into the professional game.

However, that means only the most talented survive and every season someone seizes the chance to make a name for themselves - Tom Varndell anyone?

Varndell may have been demoted to England's Senior National Academy squad to work on his game, but he is still young and will be working in the academy alongside five of the six players BBC Sport has picked to keep an eye on this season.

RYAN LAMB - GLOUCESTER

Elusive, diminutive and cocky, Gloucester-born Lamb is the antithesis of the modern-day English fly-half.

Ryan Lamb
Born: 18/05/86, Gloucester
Height: 5ft 9in (1.78m)
Weight: 12st 11lbs (81 kg)

Standing just 5ft 9in and still only 20, the impish player broke into the Gloucester side at the end of last season and immediately made those watching sit up and take notice.

One dummy against Wasps, which left Joe Worsley literally clutching at thin air, showed an instinctive feel for the game which cannot be coached.

With the likes of fellow youngsters Toby Flood (Newcastle) and Daniel Cipriani (Wasps) also impressing in the number 10 shirt, England's future at fly-half looks in safe hands.

JORDAN CRANE - LEICESTER

At the moment he is most famous for being punched by Lewis Moody at the start of last season while Crane was still at relegated Leeds Tykes.

Jordan Crane
Born: 3/06/1986
Height: 6ft 3in (1.91m)
Weight: 16st 3lbs (103kg)

Moody is not shy of getting stuck in but that does not seem to worry Crane as he moved to Leicester during the summer and will be aiming for a back-row place alongside the England man.

Crane has played for England Under-19s and 21s, captaining the former, is a member of England's Senior National Academy squad and has noted leadership ability.

Primarily a number eight, he is competing against the likes of Martin Corry for a place at Leicester and is clearly not short of confidence.

DAVID SEYMOUR - SARACENS

Many observers are crying out for England to pick an out-and-out fetcher at open-side flanker, and Seymour could just fit the bill.

David Seymour
Born: 27/09/1984
Height: 5ft 11in (1.80m)
Weight: 14st 2lbs (90kg)

He is a classic terrier-like number seven, at his happiest ferreting about on the floor for the ball and trying to turn over possession.

At 5ft 11in he harks back to the days of Neil Back in size terms, and his shock of blond hair means he is never hard to spot on the pitch.

Seymour, who captained Saracens in the pre-season Middlesex Sevens, came into the pro game after playing with Chinnor in South West Division One as a teenager.

ANTHONY ALLEN - GLOUCESTER

The powerful inside centre looks set to cause years of havoc with partner-in-crime Lamb at club, and potentially, international level.

Anthony Allen
Born: 1/09/86
Height: 5ft 11in (1.80m)
Weight: 14st 2lbs (90kg)

Allen has a potent combination of strength, speed and skill, and shone at the end of last season as Gloucester threw caution to the wind.

Although he does not turn 20 until Friday, Allen is already in his second year in England's Senior National Academy.

And he played a central role as England won the Under-21 Six Nations Grand Slam last season.

PAT BARNARD - NORTHAMPTON

The South African-born prop has an English mother and has been included in England's Senior National Academy.

Pat Barnard
Born: 3/7/1981
Height: 6ft (1.83m)
Weight: 17st 9lbs (112kg)

Barnard was the International Rugby Board's Under-21 player of the year in 2002 for his performances with South Africa Under-21s.

Barnard was restricted to 13 appearances for Northampton after a leg injury mid-way through the season, but he came back to finish the campaign strongly.

Before joining Saints the 25-year-old also had offers from Wasps, Saracens, Gloucester and Worcester Warriors.

DANNY CARE - HARLEQUINS

Like Leicester's new signing Crane, Care is a refugee from the relegated Leeds Tykes.

Danny Care
Born: 02/01/1987
Height: 5ft 9in (1.75m)
Weight: 12st (76kg)

A talented all-round sportsman who was on Sheffield Wednesday's books, Care benefited from his time understudying former All Black number nine Justin Marshall at the Tykes.

The 19-year-old is the only one of the six not to feature in the Senior National Academy, but he has played for the England Sevens team and was part of the side which won the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne last summer.

He is versatile enough to have also played fly-half for England Under-19s when regular number 10 Cipriani was injured.

SEE ALSO
Voyce dropped from England elite
01 Aug 06 |  Internationals
Premiership club-by-club guide
23 Aug 06 |  English
Ins and Outs
02 Aug 06 |  English


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