England Saxons: Sam Burgess set for international rugby union debut

Code-swapping centre named in Jon Callard's starting XV to face Ireland Wolfhounds at Irish Independent Park

By Gareth Llewellyn

Bath Rugby centre Sam Burgess will make his international rugby union debut on Friday night when England Saxons take on Ireland Wolfhounds in Cork.

The 25-year-old code-swapper has been named at inside-centre alongside Wasps centre Elliot Daly in one of the strongest Saxons teams named by England in recent years for the clash against seasoned opponents at Munster’s Irish Independent Park.

Every player knows the importance of this match with potential of claiming a spot in the senior squad for the RBS 6 Nations campaign and the World Cup later in year.

Jon Callard

There is plenty of international experience throughout the side with Harlequins scrum-half Lee Dickson captaining the side and Chris Ashton and Marland Yarde providing pace on the wings.

Worcester Warriors full-back Chris Pennell gets another chance to shine in the England shirt after his senior debut against New Zealand last summer, while Exeter Chiefs outside-half Henry Slade will be looking to show his potential as he starts at outside-half.

Senior England internationals are plentiful in the forwards as Wasps loosehead Matt Mullan and Bath tighthead Henry Thomas pack down in the front row either side of Bath hooker Rob Webber.

The second row sees Wasps lock James Gaskell paired with Bath’s Matt Garvey while Thomas Waldrom, the Aviva Premiership’s top tryscorer this season, is included at number eight with his Exeter Chiefs team-mate Dave Ewers named at blindside with Gloucester Rugby’s Matt Kvesic at openside.

“The game tomorrow night against the Wolfhounds will be a difficult and tough match for us but the group is excited about it and the opportunity to put on an England shirt,” Callard said.

“The team is one of the strongest Saxons sides selected and every player knows the importance of this match with potential of claiming a spot in the senior squad for the RBS 6 Nations campaign and the World Cup later in year.”

With Newcastle Falcons prop Kieran Brookes called back into the senior squad as training cover, Wasps’ Jake Cooper-Woolley starts Saxons bench.

There are also places for England U20 captain and Saracens lock Maro Itoje, who helped England claim the Junior World Championship last summer, pacy Wasps duo Joe Simpson and Christian Wade and Bath youngster Ollie Devoto covering the midfield.

The Saxons were victorious on their last visit to Ireland, with a 14-10 win at Connacht’s Sportsground in Galway two years ago, but a strong Wolfhounds team gained revenge 12 months ago with a 14-8 win at Kingsholm.

England Saxons: Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors); Chris Ashton (Saracens), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Sam Burgess (Bath Rugby), Marland Yarde (Harlequins); Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Lee Dickson, (Northampton Saints, captain), Matt Mullan (Wasps), Rob Webber (Bath Rugby), Henry Thomas (Bath Rugby), Matt Garvey (Bath Rugby), James Gaskell (Wasps), Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs), Matt Kvesic (Gloucester Rugby), Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs).

Replacements: Luke Cowan Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Alex Waller (Northampton Saints), Jake Cooper-Woolley (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Carl Fearns (Bath); Joe Simpson (Wasps), Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby), Christian Wade (Wasps).

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