England head coach Eddie Jones has named eight uncapped players among a 26-man squad for a three-day training camp in Brighton.
The group includes Northampton’s New Zealand-born back-row forward Teimana Harrison, Sale Sharks back Mike Haley, London Irish wing Alex Lewington and Bath lock Charlie Ewels.
England captain Dylan Hartley is also part of the squad – as is Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani – as Jones prepares for a Twickenham clash against Wales on May 29, followed by next month’s three-Test Australia tour.
The camp takes place from May 17-19, with training at Brighton College. No players involved in the Aviva Premiership play-offs, which will be contested by Saracens, Leicester, Exeter and Wasps, were considered.
Jones said: “The Brighton training camp is a good opportunity for England to get together and train hard ahead of the Wales game and summer tour.
“While we will be without those players involved in the Premiership semi-finals, it’s crucial that we spend as much time together as possible. We have an important game at Twickenham at the end of the month, and then a challenging tour to Australia.
Great news 4 Danny Cipriani. Called into England training squad. He's worked so hard this season couldn't deserve his chance more. Well Done— Steve Black (@B1ackie) May 8, 2016
“It’s a challenge that really excites us, and we are looking forward to starting our preparation. There’s lots of hard work to be done if we are going to play with the intensity needed to beat southern hemisphere teams.
“We know the speed of the game in Australia will be considerably higher than the RBS Six Nations, so this short camp, as well as the preparation time ahead of Wales, is going to be vital to our progression.
“Tour places are still up for grabs, and I expect the players in this camp – as well as those involved in the play-offs – to continue to make their case for selection.”
England’s Twickenham appointment with Wales will see them back in action for the first time since a first Six Nations Grand Slam for 13 years, which was secured by a victory over France in Paris. England face Australia on three consecutive weekends, on June 11, June 18 and June 25.
Backs: M Brown (Harlequins), L Burrell (Northampton), D Care (Harlequins), D Cipriani (Sale Sharks), O Devoto (Bath), G Ford (Bath), J Joseph (Bath), M Haley (Sale Sharks), A Lewington (London Irish), S Rokoduguni (Bath), A Watson (Bath), M Yarde (Harlequins), M Young (Newcastle).
Forwards: D Attwood (Bath), K Brookes (Northampton), J Clifford (Harlequins), C Ewels (Bath), D Hartley (Northampton), T Harrison (Northampton), P Hill (Northampton), M Kvesic (Gloucester), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), C Robshaw (Harlequins), K Sinckler (Harlequins), T Taylor (Sale Sharks).
Apollo Perelini admits he has slight concerns over the lack of depth among his back division as he looks to select his 25-man squad for the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC).
UAE rugby’s performance manager is expected to announce his touring party on Monday and admitted following his side’s 48-29 friendly defeat to the UAE Premiership Barbarians on Wednesday that the hard work will then begin.
“I don’t have any glaring concerns but I don’t have a lot of back depth,” said the 46-year-old. “I’ve got a lot of forwards but, with my backs, I’m a bit shallow and I’ve got to address that.”
Defeat to a strong Baa Baas side did not worry the New Zealander, particularly as they were made up a large contingent of Premiership and west Asia champions Dubai Exiles.
The former dual-code Samoa star also feels his job will get easier once he selects his final squad as he will be able to work on a game-plan to earn promotion from Division II of the ARC with a firm roster.
“Now the hard work starts,” insists Perelini. “The last two or three weeks we’ve been sussing people out, who fits in. Now I know and have seen all the players playing I can really sit down and assess what I’ve got and put a squad together.
“At the moment it’s hard because I’m trying to find combinations among players, that too from just one game.”
Perelini admitted a few players stood out for him during a frenetic game, in which the Baa Baas only pulled away with three tries inside the final five minutes.
“I think our boys were a bit under pressure. They think they’ve got to impress the coach and the structure went out the window,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a fear. For our boys there’s a lot of pressure to get on this team. When that happens it’s more about looking after yourself.
“I said to them I wasn’t after the result, it’s about the process.”
Instead of a league format like 12 months ago, the four teams in Division II will meet in semi-final encounters on May 18, with the UAE to play hosts Uzbekistan. Thailand will play Guam. The winners will meet in May 21’s final.
Can Saracens be beaten in the European Champions Cup? Why have Fiji found an extra gear in the World Sevens Series? All these questions and more are answered in this week’s #360rugby.
What are your thoughts? Tweet us using #360rugby to join the debate.
CHAMPIONS CUP QUARTERS A GREAT ADVERTISEMENT FOR RUGBY
Last weekend saw 17 tries scored in a feast of running rugby that saw large crowds entertained by huge hits and a never-say-die attitude from all participants.
Exeter Chiefs defied their status as quarter-final rookies to give England’s form team Wasps the shock of their lives at home. Rob Baxter’s men suffered a heart-breaking one-point loss after Jimmy Gopperth’s conversion, but it will go down as one of the great European matches.
Next it was Northampton’s turn to tear up the script at Allianz Park, taking a 10-6 lead into the break against much-fancied Saracens. However class eventually prevailed and Owen Farrell’s game management (in conjunction with a 19-point contribution) steered the Londoners into a semi-finals with Wasps where the Premiership champions must start as favourites.
Leicester continued their impressive resurgence with a 41-13 demolition of French champions Stade Francais to lay down a serious statement of intent to the other semi-finalists. Of particular note are Tigers’ red-hot backline, where Peter Betham has combined with Manu Tuilangi in the centre to devastating effect.
Maxime Machenaud and Dan Carter looked like a veteran half-back pairing as Racing 92 saw-off the challenge of three-time European Champions Toulon. However the Parisians’ semi-final date with Leicester takes place in Nottingham and it is difficult to see French representation in the tournament going any further than this match.
FIJI THRIVING UNDER PRESSURE OF OLYMPIC EXPECTATION
A victory in last weekend’s prestigious Hong Kong sevens means Fiji have now won three out of seven tournaments this year and are sitting pretty at the top of the standings.
In the final the Pacific Islanders outscored New Zealand by three tries to one and looked superior to their famous rivals in every department.
Semi Kunatane’s length of the field effort with two minutes left sealed the contest after Fijian defenders outmuscled New Zealand at the breakdown and he was rightly named player of the final.
In addition to victories in HK, Dubai and Las Vegas the Fiji have finished second in two other tournaments and it is fair to say that hopes of Fiji winning its first ever Olympic gold medals in August have brought a more consistent level of performance to Ben Ryan’s side.
EXILES VICTORY COULD BE CATALYST FOR PROFESSIONAL LEAGUE ESTABLISHMENT
Winning the UAE Premiership title is never an easy task, but Dubai Exiles have earned the right to feel particularly proud of their achievement this year, given the higher levels of competition that now exist in the region.
Much has been made of the signings that followed Jacques Benade to the club last summer, among them talented South African fly-half Durandt Gerber, who was in Italy’s training squad for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Bit of a situation brewing pic.twitter.com/JA2bTx4Tf6— Dubai Exiles RFC (@DubaiExiles) April 9, 2016
However their recruitment policy has been no different to that of their closest rivals in recent seasons to the benefit of the league standard as a whole.
Doha, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Jebel Ali Dragons and Abu Dhabi Harlequins have all won national titles now and their increased consistency has meant fewer ‘soft’ fixtures in the league.
With increasingly-professional looking infrastructures being installed into the region’s clubs, it can only be a matter of time before the game turns professional.
STAPLEY SCOUTING REVEALS POTENTIL UAE DILEMMA
Exiles youngster Tom Stapley only broke into the first team in January – now the 18-year-old is dreaming of a professional rugby career with Ulster.
The Pro 12 side were tipped off about Stapley’s talent by Exiles director of rugby Jacques Benade, who enjoyed a stellar 15-year coaching career in Ireland before his move to the Emirates last July.
“The level of coaching out here is excellent,” said the Jumeirah College student. “To get people out here up to the required standard needed to go back to the UK, I owe a lot to them for where I am now, and I definitely won’t forget that when I’m in Ireland.”
However one man that may be left slightly disappointed by the Stapley’s move is UAE national coach Apollo Perelini, who will not be able to pick the player if he decides to qualify for Ireland instead as a player cannot represent two international teams under World Rugby ruling.
Whoever Stapley does decide he wants to play rugby for, his move underlines the rapidly-growing profile of UAE rugby and its ability to produce professional players.
This athletic moment from Morocco’s Adil Achahbar has certainly got the world of rugby talking. The playmaker rounds off a try with flip over the advertising boards, a salute and a hop back. With this level of entertainment on (and off!) the field, it’s not hard to see why sevens is back in the Olympics.