Dowson takes leading role

Newcastle forward Phil Dowson will captain England Saxons against Italy A in Sicily on Saturday. [more]

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Newcastle forward Phil Dowson will captain England Saxons against Italy A in Sicily on Saturday.

Dowson takes over from his back-row colleague Jordan Crane, who led the Saxons to an impressive 31-13 victory over Ireland A at Leicester last Friday night.

Leicester number eight Crane and several other Saxons possibles are set to be on Guinness Premiership duty for their clubs this weekend.

There are three league games scheduled – Gloucester versus Leicester, Saracens against Worcester and Wasps versus Sale Sharks.

Saxons head coach Steve Bates said: "With Guinness Premiership games on this weekend, we have agreed to release a number of players to play for their clubs.

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"I think it’s a great indication that we can still field such a strong and competitive squad, despite only picking from half the Premiership.

"I have been impressed at how quickly the new faces have fitted in and how quickly the squad has come together."

Five players will make their Saxons debuts against Italy’s second string – wings John Rudd and Tom Biggs, prop Alex Clarke, Bath lock Peter Short and Harlequins number eight Tom Guest.

The team also includes Newcastle scrum-half Lee Dickson, who was called into the senior England RBS 6 Nations squad for training earlier this week.

Dickson’s Falcons colleague David Wilson, meanwhile, has been named on the bench, pending the outcome of a disciplinary hearing today.

Prop Wilson was cited following an incident during the Ireland A game and has been summoned to appear before 6 Nations disciplinary chiefs in London.

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