Wilkinson and Farrell in Elite Squad

Jonny Wilkinson and Andy Farrell have both been included in England's 55-strong elite squad for the coming season. [more]

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Jonny Wilkinson and Andy Farrell have both been included in England’s 55-strong elite squad for the coming season.

Wilkinson has not played for England since the 2003 World Cup final – but is fit again after suffering a succession of injuries.

Farrell, the former Great Britain rugby league captain, is yet to play a competitive game of union since his cross-code switch to Saracens from Wigan.

He missed the whole of last season with toe and back injuries and there remains some debate where his best position will be.

But England head coach Andy Robinson believes both men can be key figures for their country heading into next year’s World Cup defence.

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"I would like to welcome back Jonny Wilkinson. Everyone hopes that he has put his injuries behind him and is able to play regularly for Newcastle Falcons," said Robinson.

"I am also looking forward to working with Andy Farrell who was in last season’s EPS squad but suffered a succession of injuries.

"I am very excited about this new Elite Player Squad which faces a challenging year ahead leading into the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

"These players will form the nucleus of selection for the Investec Challenge series in the autumn and the RBS 6 Nations and they should be congratulated on being included.

"However, as is always the case, exclusion from these squads does not mean that the selection door to England is closed."

Bath prop Matt Stevens was not considered for the squad after undergoing further shoulder surgery.

The leading omission is Wasps winger Tom Voyce, while there is no place for Leicester prop Graham Rowntree or Gloucester lock Alex Brown.

The 55-man squad is made up of 40 senior England players and a 15-man national academy squad, whose number includes Leicester winger Tom Varndell, exciting Gloucester trio Anthony Allen, Ryan Lamb and Olly Morgan and Saracens flanker David Seymour.

Lawrence Dallaglio’s World Cup ambitions remain on track after he was included in the squad, as are those of veteran London Irish centre Mike Catt.

But there is no place for Saracens blind-side flanker Richard Hill, who is still recovering from knee ligament surgery.

Robinson is yet to confirm his captain but the squad includes a number of contenders.

Martin Corry led England last season before being rested for the summer tour of Australia, when Pat Sanderson took over the reigns.

Dallaglio would be a candidate as, of course, is Wilkinson who Robinson named as his England captain soon after taking over as head coach from Sir Clive Woodward.

England’s World Cup build-up begins against New Zealand on November 5 before a clash with Argentina and two Tests against South Africa.

England then head into the Six Nations before an end-of-season tour to South Africa and a series of summer warm-up Tests.

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