Stevens returns to Saxons fold

Matt Stevens could yet secure a World Cup spot after the latest step in his comeback. [more]

Stevens returns to Saxons fold

Matt Stevens could yet secure a World Cup spot after the latest step in his comeback.

The 28-year-old prop has been named in the England Saxons squad for next month’s Churchill Cup.

Stevens’ inclusion in a 24-man party marks his first international involvement since receiving a two-year ban in early 2009.

The then Bath star was suspended after admitting cocaine use, with critics suggesting his chances of returning to the England scene before this year’s World Cup in New Zealand were extremely limited.

But Stevens’ form for Aviva Premiership winners Saracens has led to a chance to impress England boss Martin Johnson in the second string games against the United States and Tonga on June 4 and 12 respectively.

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Stevens is the only Lion in what is the youngest squad in Saxons history with the average age standing at just 23 years and nine months.

Stevens’ Sarries team-mate Mouritz Botha is another high-profile inclusion after the South African lock qualified for England on residency grounds.

Ugo Monye, a Test Lion two summers ago, misses out as he awaits results of a scan on knee ligament damage he sustained in England’s non-cap defeat to the Barbarians on Saturday afternoon, while Northampton Saints fly-half Stephen Myler and Harlequins prop Joe Marler are also absent due to a broken toe and concussion respectively.

“It’s a great opportunity for so many young players to test themselves against international sides like the USA and Tonga who are preparing for the World Cup,” said Saxons coach Stuart Lancaster.

“The players involved against the Barbarians will have taken a lot out of a match against some really experienced internationals and now the challenge is to bind them together with players coming in from the two Aviva Premiership finalists to produce an effective performance against the USA on Saturday.”

After facing the USA at Franklin’s Gardens, England take on Tonga at Kingsholm, with the finals day taking place at Sixways on Saturday, June 18.

Johnson will then name his preliminary World Cup training squad two days later on June 20.

England Saxons squad

Forwards

David Attwood (Gloucester Rugby)
Mouritz Botha (Saracens)
Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons)
Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)
James Gaskell (Sale Sharks)
Jamie Gibson (London Irish)
Joe Gray (Harlequins)
Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors)
Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors)
Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
David Paice (London Irish)
Matt Stevens (Saracens)

Backs

Miles Benjamin (Worcester Warriors)
Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Rory Clegg (Harlequins)
Alex Goode (Saracens)
Paul Hodgson (London Irish)
Topsy Ojo (London Irish)
Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby)
Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby)
Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers)
Micky Young (Newcastle Falcons) 

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