Alan Dickens has been appointed England men U20s head coach.
Dickens joins the Rugby Football Union from Northampton Saints where he was most recently defence coach for the Premiership side.
Dickens, 43, is a former Sale Sharks, Leeds Tykes, Saracens and Northampton Saints scrum-half, and has been involved in the coaching set-up at Franklin’s Gardens since retiring as a player in 2010.
He has coached at all levels at the club including academy manager and interim head coach. In 2016 he toured South Africa as defence coach with England Saxons - with the side winning both matches against Springboks A.
He will work with the 14 regional academies as well as universities to help develop players for senior international rugby and lead England U20s through the 2020 U20 Six Nations Championship as well as World Rugby U20 Championship in Italy.
The appointment of Dickens follows on from the arrival of Jonathan Pendlebury as England men U18s head coach earlier this month.
England’s player pathway programme is a vital development tool into full international rugby.
Of the 31 players selected in England’s 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, 81% have played for England U20s, 77% for England U18s, while 87% came through a club academy.
Head of professional rugby Nigel Melville said: “The U20s along with our U18s men squads are very important teams for the future of the senior national team and we are seeing significant transition through the pathway.
“Alan Dickens has worked in the Saxons set up before in 2016 and has also worked in the academy space so is experienced in the development of young players, and also has good Premiership experience so we feel he is a great choice for this role.
“He knows what it takes to develop future England internationals so is ideally placed to not only bring players through from U18s to U20s, but from 20s to the senior set up. His job will be to transition those players, but also work with our U18s head coach Jonathan Pendlebury to shape the next generation of England player coming through.”
Alan Dickens said: “I’m thrilled to take on this important role with the RFU. The most exciting thing for me is seeing young players progress within their clubs, and ultimately then into the England first team squad.
“I’ve felt real pride in recent years seeing young Northampton players make the step up to international level, make their debuts and go on to play in Six Nations Championships and World Cups.
“The player pathway while I’ve been coaching has been really strong, with England reaching the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship nine times over the last 12 years and winning the tournament on three occasions, so of course I’m keen to continue that run of success.
“The numbers of players then getting capped from those teams is also phenomenal, so I’m really looking forward to helping these young guys progress through the pathway.
“I’m already looking forward to coming back to Franklin’s Gardens in February with England when we take on Ireland in the Six Nations Championship; it’s a proper rugby stadium with supporters who love the game, so that will be a special moment for me.”