Ben Redshaw Exclusive: “Coming out of school this year has been pretty special - I’ve been dreaming about this since I was five"

Ben Redshaw's excellent season will continue in South Africa as England target U20 Championship glory
©RFU Collection via JMP UK

This weekend, the highly anticipated World Rugby U20 Championship returns to South Africa with reigning Six Nations champions England determined to end France’s run of three titles in a row.

Back in March, Mark Mapletoft’s men secured their first Under-20 Six Nations win since 2021 by beating France in the final game of the tournament.

The first of the try scorers for England in that game was Newcastle Falcons’ Ben Redshaw.

The versatile back has become a mainstay of this Under-20’s side and has set high hopes for the upcoming championship.

Ahead of their opener against Argentina in Cape Town on Saturday, England played two friendlies against Georgia in Tbilisi, winning the first fixture 31-7 but then, after making a dozen changes to the starting XV, they lost the second 45-17.

“We took a lot away from those games against Georgia,” Redshaw tells TRU.

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“There were a lot of fresh faces in that group, and the ones who have come along to South Africa have done really well. A few younger faces, the likes of Lucas Friday and Jack Bracken have fitted in really well, and the past couple of days since touching down in South Africa have been all about confidence and building ourselves nicely into that game against Argentina on Saturday.”

Winning the Six Nations earlier this season will be a massive confidence booster for Mapletoft’s troops as they enter this tournament. 

“We’ve taken a lot of pride and assurance from the Six Nations, knowing we’re a team that can win big competitions, but then again, our mindset is all on this tournament,” Redshaw tells TRU.

“We know how competitive it’s going to be, and our aim is just to take each game as it comes and keep to our process, hopefully getting the outcome that we want.”

England are in Pool C where they will also face Fiji and, lastly, the hosts South Africa.

“All three teams will be very competitive but they will also be very different games,” Redshaw adds.

“We know Argentina, similar to the games against Georgia, are a very passionate side, so we know that will be a tough challenge.

“And then Fiji and South Africa are a bit more similar in that they’re both going to be a physical battle. I think people underestimate us in terms of our physicality levels, but we pride ourselves on our aggressive defence and want to come out firing.”

On a personal level, this season has been a breakout one for Redshaw and his development. At the start of the campaign, he made his senior debut for Newcastle Falcons when he came off the bench against Bedford Blues in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

He then made his first Premiership start against Bath in the opening round. He’s now played 12 times for the Falcons, pairing it with appearances for Tynedale in National Two North. 

Redshaw was not only recently named Falcons’ Academy Player of the Season, but was also awarded Try of the Season for his solo stunner in Newcastle’s away win over Perpignan in the European Challenge Cup.

“Coming straight out of school this year has been pretty special,” he says. “Some people see it as a job, but this is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was five years old. I couldn’t be any more ecstatic about the way the season has gone for me personally.

“I have to admit I was shocked when I saw my name on that team sheet against Bath, but it was something I didn’t take for granted. It was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to express myself this season and I’m really grateful for that.

“Ultimately, I just want to be playing rugby, whether that’s for England, Falcons, or Tynedale. Playing is what I love and what I want to do. It’s been a special season, and I’m looking forward to more.”

Not only has Redshaw had some amazing playing opportunities this season, but he also had the experience of a lifetime last September when Steve Borthwick asked him to come to Le Touquet to help the England men’s senior squad prepare for their World Cup opener against Argentina. 

“When I found out, it was pretty breathtaking. The whole experience of spending the week with the squad was so special. Playing and training with players I’ve been watching since I was a kid was so cool to watch and learn from them.

“It was such a valuable experience for me being able to learn of the likes of Owen Farrell, with his leadership, and Jonny May, with his recovery. There were so many things I took away from it, and I’m so grateful for it.”

Part of why Redshaw is highly rated amongst fans and his coaches is his versatility as a player. He has operated on the wing, at 13 and at full-back for England and will wear the No.15 jersey on Saturday against Argentina.

“I’m happy to play anywhere, really, as long as I’m on the pitch,” he says. “If I had to choose a favourite position I’d probably say full-back at the moment. With the Under-20s, I enjoy playing at outside centre, but playing in the Premiership is a bit different with the physicality.

“I’m still developing as a younger player with my work in the gym, so fullback and wing suit me quite well at Falcons. The versatility allows me to adapt and see the game in different lights, and as a young player, I think it’s been really beneficial to my game. I think full-back suits my playing style and strengths. It gives me a lot of space on the pitch, which I enjoy.”