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Will Owen believes England can live up to their favourites tag at the World Rugby Under-20 Championship and deliver a third straight title.

The former Diss Rugby Club player and Framlingham College pupil is determined to shine in Italy in his first World Championship as he looks to stake his claim for a Leicester Tigers’ first-team debut next season.

England’s defence of the trophy they won in both 2014 and 2013 got off to the perfect start on Tuesday with a 59-7 pool A victory over Japan at the Stadio San Michele in Calvisano in northern Italy in which Owen started at open-side flanker.

The recently-turned 20-year-old from Occold, near Eye, is looking to end a largely injury-hit campaign, which saw him end the season on loan to National League One outfit Coventry, on a high.

“Obviously everyone will be watching and it is a massive chance to prove myself and hopefully get in the mix with the Tigers’ team as well for next season,” he said, ahead of travelling out to Italy at the end of last week.

“It is a massive opportunity to show what we have got as a team. Hopefully the boys can pull through and make sure we win.

“There are some big teams in there such as South Africa and New Zealand but we are ranked number one in the world and we are confident that if we work hard we can win it.”

As well as newcomers to the competition, Japan, England’s group also contains France and the only side who beat them on their way to Six Nations glory earlier this year, Wales.

England go into tomorrow’s clash with the Welsh, again at the Stadio San Michele (7.30pm, live on BT Sport), with former Occold Primary School pupil Owen calling for total focus to ensure they come out victorious.

“We lost in the Six Nations against them and they are a really good side,” he said.

“We just need to keep organised and hopefully we can do it against them this time.”

England conclude their group campaign against France at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella, Viadana on Wednesday, with top spot guaranteeing them a place in the semi-finals in the 12 team competition.

Owen spent 11 years at Diss Rugby Club before earning a move to Premiership giants Leciester Tiger’s academy.

He made the bench for an LV Cup match last year, but is yet to make a first-team appearance.

n Former Diss player Steve Hipwell, now at Cambridge, finished with a runners-up medal as Eastern Counties lost at Twickenham on Sunday, losing their County Championship Division Two Plate final 17-3 to Surrey.

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