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Johnson Names World Cup Training Squad

Provisional 45 man squad announced for World Cup

Posted Jun 23, 2011 by Chris White

Martin Johnson must cut the squad down to just 30

Martin Johnson this week named his 45-man training squad ahead of this year’s World Cup, and there was a place for one of the most controversial figures in recent times in the party. Saracens prop Matt Stevens, who was given a two-year ban for testing positive for cocaine has been named in Johnson’s squad after impressing with his new club side, and again in the England Saxons team that retained the Churchill Cup.

Five uncapped players join Stevens in the training squad. Manu Tuilagi, Thomas Waldrom, Mouritz Botha, Joe Simpson and Charlie Sharples are all given their first call-ups by Johnson to the full England squad and will be looking to impressive the World Cup winning captain turned coach.

Tuilagi was named the Player’s Association Player of the Year in the Premiership this year, while Leicester team mate Waldrom received the Young Player of the Year award, so both will be in strong positions for nailing down places in the final 30-man squad to go to New Zealand.

The new players in the squad will be bolstered by experienced heads such as Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall and Lewis Moody, who will provide invaluable experience for the whole squad, both on and off the field.

There are recalls for Saracens scrum half Richard Wigglesworth, Lee Mears, the Bath hooker, and wingers Ugo Monye of Harlequins and James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester, while all of the 2011 Six Nations squad keep their places.

The squad will now train for ten weeks before Johnson will have to decide on the unlucky 15 not to be boarding the plane to the World Cup.

I’m glad Johnson has given Stevens a chance in the England squad. He made his mistake, apologised for it, went away, and has come back strong and determined to show what he is still capable of. He was crucial in Saracens’ Premiership victory, and was a key man in the Saxons squad, proving he can still do it at international level.

There will be people who question whether someone banned for drug taking should be allowed to represent their country ever again or not, but if a player is clean, playing well, and deserving of a place, why should they be punished any further? That is the question. He lost two years of a career in professional sport and has learned his mistakes. Case closed.

Full England training squad:

Forwards: Botha (Saracens), Chuter (Leicester), Cole (Leicester), Corbisiero (London Irish), Croft (Leicester), Deacon (Leicester), Doran-Jones (Northampton), Easter (Harlequins), Fourie (Sale), Hartley (Northampton), Haskell (Unattached), Lawes (Northampton), Mears (Bath), Moody (Bath), Palmer (Stade Francais), Payne (Wasps), Robshaw (Harlequins), Shaw (Wasps), Sheridan (Sale), Stevens (Saracens), Thompson (Wasps), Waldrom (Leicester), Wilson (Bath), Wood (Northampton), Worsley (Wasps).

Backs: D Armitage (London Irish), Ashton (Northampton), Banahan (Bath), Care (Harlequins), Cueto (Sale), Flood (Leicester), Flutey (Wasps), Foden (Northampton), Hape (London Irish), Hodgson (Saracens), Monye (Harlequins), Sharples (Gloucester), Simpson (Wasps), Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), Strettle (Saracens), Tindall (Gloucester), M Tuilagi (Leicester), Wigglesworth (Saracens), Wilkinson (Toulon), Youngs (Leicester).

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