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Saxons finalise squad ahead of Ireland Wolfhounds visit

Five new players have been added to the England Saxons squad to face the Wolfhounds in Exeter this weekend.

Harlequins' Matt Hopper, one of five new faces added to the England Saxons squad today.
Harlequins' Matt Hopper, one of five new faces added to the England Saxons squad today.
Image: Joe Giddens/EMPICS Sport

JON CALLARD, THE England Saxons coach, has added five new faces in a revised squad to face the Ireland Wolfhounds this weekend.

Matt Hopper, Paul Hodgson, Rupert Harden, Ed Slater and Kearnan Myall have all been included in Callard’s 25-man panel, which assembled in Devon today to begin their preparations for Saturday’s game at Sandy Park.

For Hopper, Slater and Harden, it is their first call-up to England’s second-string side, while Myall returns after featuring in the Saxons team which won the Churchill Cup in 2010.

Hodgson, who has nine full international caps at scrum-half, is included almost two years after his last appearance for England, which came as a second-half replacement in the defeat against Ireland in the 2010 Six Nations.

Three of England’s World Cup party — Matt Banahan, Delon Armitage and Thomas Waldrom — are also included in a squad which Callard says has a lot to offer.

“This squad has got a great deal of longevity,” said Callard. “They’ve all got something to offer to the national team, whether they’re coming down from the senior squad, or they’ve been injured, or if they’re young players going up.

“Everyone’s got a contribution to make and it’s all about the future.”

At the announcement of his 25-man Wolfhound squad last Thursday, Declan Kidney promised to take Saturday’s performance into account before he names his panel for the Six Nations opener against Wales on 5 February.

A number of fringe players, including Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald, will be hoping for a strong performance against the Saxons to re-establish themselves in the coach’s plans for the tournament.

“The Wolfhounds game gives myself and the other coaches one final chance to give games to players to see possible options before we settle on our matchday 22 for the opening game of the Championship,” Kidney said.

“It also gives us the opportunity to have a closer look in training at some of the younger players, rather than bringing in more experienced players, who are very much still in the frame for selection.”

England Saxons squad

Backs: Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby), Delon Armitage (London Irish), Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Matt Hopper (Harlequins), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Ryan Lamb (Northampton Saints), Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers), Micky Young (Leicester Tigers).

Forwards: Chris Brooker (Harlequins), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Matt Garvey (London Irish), James Gaskell (Sale Sharks), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Rupert Harden (Gloucester Rugby), Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs), Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors), Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks), George Robson (Harlequins), Andy Saull (Saracens), Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby).

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Niall Kelly

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