WOODHOUSE Grove pupil James Whitcombe has been called up for his England under-18 debut.

The Keighley teenager, who is attached to Leicester Tigers Academy, is part of a new-look squad for the Aon Under-18 International Series tournament in South Africa.

Based at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, England will play fixtures against France (Friday, August 10, 1.15pm, Boland Landbou), Wales (Tuesday, August, 14, 1.15pm, Stellenbosch) and South Africa Schools (Saturday, August 18, 1.05pm, SACS).

Prop Whitcombe, who is the son of former England B international prop Martin, is in a squad that are predominately under-17s.

The plan is for their England pathway to culminate in the Under-18 Six Nations Festival next April.

Head of international player development Dean Ryan said: "This will likely be the first time the players have been away from home for an extended period of time playing an international rugby tournament, so that will challenge them in different ways.

"They will also play three international fixtures in a short space of time, so it's an important experience for them as they transition through the pathway.

"For many it will also be their first experience of playing against a southern hemisphere opponent, which will be valuable for those that advance into senior international rugby."

The 26-man squad includes only five players who have been capped at under-18 level – Alfie Barbeary (Wasps-Bloxham School), George Barton (Gloucester Rugby-Dean Close School), Tom Curtis (Sale Sharks-Sedbergh School), Callum Pascoe (Newcastle Falcons-Gosforth Academy) and George Martin (Leicester Tigers-Brooksby Melton College).

England will be coached by Steve Bates and Jim Mallinder, who will be assisted by former Otley and Leeds Carnegie Mark Luffman and Nick Kennedy.

Ryan added: "By taking our under-17 group, we are ensuring our best players are available to tour South Africa.

"Previously we always felt, along with the clubs, that being under-18 in August was an important period for them transitioning from school into senior rugby and the tour did not fit into that window.

"It also denied under-18 players having a full pre-season with their club or alternatively denied us the chance to take our best players on tour.

"The South Africa tour used to be the end of the under-18 programme whereas now it's the start of the journey and allows us to connect the pathway calendar.

"Those that travel with us to South Africa will be eligible for the under-18 spring internationals before having a full pre-season at their clubs in July and August and continuing their international journey.

"It was important to produce a model that complements the club scene and fits in with their programme to make the journey through the pathway more seamless."

Backs – Lennox Anyanwu, Harlequins (Christ's Hospital); George Barton Gloucester Rugby (Dean Close School); Jack Bates Bristol Bears (SGS Filton); Phil Cokanasiga London Irish (St Pauls College); Tom Curtis, Sale Sharks (Sedbergh School); Josh Gillespie, Northampton Saints (Millfield School); Josh Hallett, Saracens (New Hall School); Will Haydon-Wood, Newcastle Falcons (Sedbergh School); Louis Lynagh, Harlequins (Hampton School); Callum Pascoe, Newcastle Falcons (Gosforth Academy); Raphael Quirke, Sale Sharks (St Ambrose College); Tom Roebuck, Sale Sharks (Wirral Grammar). Forwards – Alfie Barbeary, Wasps (Bloxham School); Harvey Beaton, Saracens (Sutton Valence); Jack Clement, Gloucester Rugby (Cheltenham College); Harry Dugmore, Harlequins (Whitgift School); George Hammond, Harlequins (Whitgift School); Jack Hughes, Northampton Saints (Uppingham School); George Martin, Leicester Tigers (Brooksby Melton College); Nahum Merigan, Bath Rugby (Beechen Cliff School); Rowan Mullis, Gloucester Rugby (Hartpury College); Chunya Munga, London Irish (Leighton Park School); Sam Riley, Harlequins (St George's Weybridge); Fin Rossiter, London Irish (Wellington College), Archie Smeaton, Yorkshire Carnegie (Hymers College); James Whitcombe, Leicester Tigers (Woodhouse Grove).