Northampton flanker Calum Clark to captain England Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds
Last Updated: 24/01/14 10:25pm
Calum Clark: Will skipper Saxons on debut
Calum Clark has been named England Saxons captain for Saturday's clash with the Ireland Wolfhounds at Gloucester.
The Northampton flanker will be one of seven players making their Saxons debuts at Kingsholm as they look to avenge last year's 14-10 defeat to the Wolfhounds in Galway.
Bath wing Anthony Watson, Exeter centre Sam Hill, Saints prop Alex Waller, Harlequins forwards Charlie Matthews and Luke Wallace and Chiefs No 8 Dave Ewers will also be making their first appearances at this level.
Watson was named in England's Six Nations squad earlier this month, but the 19-year-old has been given clearance to play for the Saxons due to his lack of senior international experience.
Clark hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he served a 32-week ban after he admitted hyper-extending Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' arm in the LV= Cup final in 2012.
Hawkins suffered a serious elbow injury, and Clark was charged with an act contrary to good sportsmanship.
He was suspended by the Rugby Football Union and also banned by his club, which ruled him out of England's tour of South Africa later that year.
Following the incident, Leicester rugby director Richard Cockerill said: "It is a pretty poor act. I think it's completely out of order and, in my opinion, it's as bad an injury as I've seen on a rugby field."
Clark, though, subsequently returned to top-flight rugby and has delivered a number of impressive displays in Saints colours.
RFU head of international player development Joe Lydon said: "Calum Clark has been a positive influence from the moment he arrived in camp.
"He commands the respect of the group and I'm sure he will lead from the front.
"Freddie Burns has also made an outstanding contribution in the time he's been with us and he will be vice-captain at Kingsholm."
"He commands the respect of the group and I'm sure he will lead from the front."
Joe Lydon on Calum Clark
Lydon insists he is not concerned with the lack of experience in the Saxons line-up, and he backed his young squad to give a good account of themselves against Ireland and Scotland A next week.
"The players in this squad have worked very hard in a short week and there will be a lot of tremendous talent from the Aviva Premiership on show this Saturday and against Scotland A in Glasgow on Friday week," he added.
"They've been helped by an outstanding contribution from the staff and coaches led by Jon Callard, Simon Hardy and Paul Gustard.
"Players can make an immediate step from the Saxons into the senior side but we're also looking at the development of those players with the longer term potential to push for places in England's World Cup squads in 2015, 2019 and beyond.
"First and foremost, though, we want to win against the Wolfhounds and Scotland A. The recent history of these games tells us it will be hard work against two fiercely competitive teams."
England Saxons: 15 Daly, 14 Watson, 13 Hopper, 12 Hill, 11 Sharples, 10 Burns, 9 Simpson; 1 Waller, 2 George, 3 Mercey, 4 Matthews, 5 Kruis, 6 Clark, 7 Wallace, 8 Ewers
Replacements: 16 Ward, 17 Catt, 18 Wilson, 19 Stooke, 20 Dickinson, 21 Lewis, 22 Slade, 23 Miller
Watch the Saxons take on the Wolfhounds LIVE on Sky Sports 1, coverage starts at 4.45pm