Hopper named in England Saxons squad

Harlequins centre Matt Hopper has been called into the England Saxons squad training to face the Ireland Wolfhounds at Sandy Park, Exeter, on Saturday.

Centre Hopper, who was born in the city, is one of five new players named in the 25-man group alongside scrum half Paul Hodgson (London Irish), prop Rupert Harden (Gloucester Rugby), lock Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers) and flanker Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks).

Hodgson and Harden are temporary injury replacements for Karl Dickson (Harlequins) and Henry Thomas (Sale Sharks).

Hopper, Slater and Myall step up in place of Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers) and Dave Attwood (Bath Rugby), who have joined the senior squad training in Leeds this week.

Hopper’s call-up comes after just 11 first-team games for Harlequins following his spells in the RFU Championship at Plymouth Albion and Cornish Pirates. He returns to Devon where he learned the game at Exeter Chiefs before playing for local junior club Wessex.

“He’s done well every time I’ve seen him and really deserves his chance,” said England Saxons coach Jon Callard.

Slater and Harden make their first appearances at this level, Myall returns after first featuring for the Saxons in the 2010 Churchill Cup and experienced scrum half Hodgson, who won the last of his nine England caps two years ago, “will bring his energy and experience to the group”.

Saxons coaches Callard and Simon Hardy have an experienced contingent of backs, including British and Irish Lion Ugo Monye and World Cup squad members Matt Banahan, Delon Armitage as well as the likes of in-form Gloucester duo Freddie Burns and Jonny May. Up front Harden, 25, Myall, 25, and Slater, 23, join a group of forwards with an average age of 24 years nine months.

“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.”

The Saxons assemble at Woodbury Park in Devon today and the side to face the Wolfhounds is due to be named on Thursday, January 26.

England Saxons squad

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)

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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