June International Tours

Mallinder eyes up the Churchill Cup

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England Saxons coach Jim Mallinder believes the Churchill Cup will present an opportunity to assess a number of players before the Rugby World Cup squad is selected.

World Cup winner Iain Balshaw, who missed out on the senior England tour to South Africa, is among eight capped players called up and will be joined by fellow internationals Shane Geraghty, Olly Barkley, Paul Sackey, Dan Scarbrough, Tom Voyce, Michael Lipman and James Haskell.

The squad includes some of English rugby’s brightest young talent, featuring Bath full-back Nick Abendanon, Gloucester fly-half Ryan Lamb and Newcastle flanker Ben Woods.

Mallinder believes the competition will offer a good chance for these players to impress with the World Cup coming up in September.

He said: “The England Saxons squad is very important to the success of England Rugby, especially this year with the World Cup only four months away.

“I am pleased to see a lot of players making the step up from age group rugby – it is proof that the academy system is working.

“The Barclays Churchill Cup gives all of us an opportunity to see those players who we need more information on before the World Cup squad is picked.

“That said, it is important we get the balance of experience and youth right to give the players the best possible chance to succeed.

“This is a very competitive tournament, and quite a few of the players have first-hand experience of just how tough it is going to be.

“But the fact that we will face some strong international opposition teams makes it a great development tool for the players. It is in situations like this that you learn which players are ready to take the next step.”

Mallinder’s 38-man group includes 10 players from Leicester, Wasps and Bath, who are all involved in European finals later this month.

They will not be available for the Saxons’ opening game against the USA in Stockport on May 18. England then face Scotland A at Twickenham 10 days later, followed by the June 2 finals day, also at Twickenham.

New Zealand Maori, Ireland ‘A’ and Canada complete the six-team tournament, which is being staged in England for the first time.
365 Digital

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