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New Zealand 36 - 13 England

England release quartet

By Tony Curtis.   Last Updated: 25/01/07 11:14am

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New England coach Brian Ashton has released four players from his squad for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 3.

Ashton, who will trim his initial 33-man training squad back to 22 on Monday, has decided to rest wingers Paul Sackey and Mark Cueto and release scrum-half Shaun Perry and Gloucester lock Alex Brown.

However, Jason Robinson, Louis Deacon, Magnus Lund and Steve Thompson have all kept their places for now despite initial fears over their fitness - while Jonny Wilkinson retains his spot despite having not played for Newcastle since suffering a lacerated kidney 12 weeks ago.

Cueto (calf) and Sackey (knee) miss out after failing to recover in time from injuries, while Ashton has decided Perry and Brown will be better suited playing for the Saxons in their match against Italy A.

Brian Ashton said: "The medical opinion was that Paul and Mark would not be fit and I wish them all the best for a speedy recovery.

"Shaun and Alex have just missed the cut. It was a very tough decision and underlines the strong competition for places."

Perry's departure means Ashton will have to choose between a rejuvenated Harry Ellis and Gloucester's Peter Richards for the No.9 shirt, while Louis Deacon, Tom Palmer and Danny Grewcock - as well as the versatile Magnus Lund - offer England options in the second row.

Wilkinson, meanwhile, looks set to be allowed to play some part in Newcastle's match against Leicester on Saturday to prove his fitness.

England's 29-man squad - backs: Iain Balshaw (Gloucester), Mike Catt (London Irish), Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers), Andy Farrell (Saracens), Toby Flood (Newcastle), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Josh Lewsey (Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Peter Richards (Gloucester), Jason Robinson (Sale), Mathew Tait (Newcastle), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Jonny Wilkinson (Newcastle).
Forwards: George Chuter (Leicester), Martin Corry (Leicester), Louis Deacon (Leicester), Perry Freshwater (Perpignan), Danny Grewcock (Bath), Magnus Lund (Sale), Lee Mears (Bath), Lewis Moody (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Tim Payne (Wasps), Tom Rees (Wasps), Steve Thompson (Northampton), Phil Vickery (capt, Wasps), Dan Ward-Smith (Bristol), Julian White (Leicester), Joe Worsley (Wasps).

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