Martin Johnson has named three new faces in his 33 man Elite Playing Squad for this year’s upcoming RBS 6 Nations Championship.
The newly promoted players are Sale Shark’s Charlie Hodgson, Leicester Tiger’s Louis Deacon, and Joe Simpson of London Wasps. The 21 year old Simpson is the only uncapped player in the squad as Johnson looks to win the championship for the first time since 2003, when he captained the side before they went on to also win the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Deacon replaces Gloucester’s Dave Attwood who made two appearances from the bench earlier this season against New Zealand and Samoa. Attwood is currently serving a nine week suspension handed down by the ERC after being found guilty of stamping on a player during Gloucester’s match against La Rochelle.
Simpson in turn replaces club teammate Dominic Waldouck. Waldouck recently returned from a lengthy injury lay-off, but was deemed to need more game time prior to turning out for England.
Hodgson’s inclusion along with Toulon’s Jonny Wilkinson and Leicester’s Toby Flood sees Johnson name three fly-halves and is testament to the hard work and match winning performances that he has been putting in throughout the season for Sale, even though it was recently announced he would leave the Lancashire based club, who play their home games in Stockport, to join Watford based side Saracens. This ends Hodgson’s affiliation with Sale that has lasted for over ten years.
Courtney Lawes, who is will be out for the start of the tournament due to injury, has none the less been included in the squad, possibly due to the suspension of Attwood.
Johnson is clearly approaching these championships with one eye on the World Cup which will be hosted by New Zealand this coming autumn. In including Hodgson, he said “with Charlie Hodgson it’s important to have three No.10s there, especially in a Rugby World Cup year we need to have people ready to go if there are any injuries.”
England squad in full:
Forwards: George Chuter, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Paul Doran Jones, Hendre Fourie, Nick Easter, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Moody, Tom Palmer, Tim Payne, Simon Shaw, Andrew Sheridan, Steve Thompson, David Wilson, Joe Worsley.
Backs: Delon Armitage, Chris Ashton, Matt Banahan, Danny Care, Mark Cueto, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Riki Flutey, Shontayne Hape, Charlie Hodgson, Joe Simpson, David Strettle, Mike Tindall, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs