English Rugby
Wilkinson retained in England squad
Scrum.com
October 26, 2009

England team manager Martin Johnson has included three uncapped players in his revised EPS squad for the autumn internationals, as well as recalling World Cup winners Steve Thompson and Jonny Wilkinson.

Bath prop David Barnes, Leicester Tigers lock Richard Blaze and Northampton's versatile forward Courtney Lawes are the three new faces in the 32-strong squad.

Barnes has earned a first call-up at the age of 32 because of the unavailability of injured trio Phil Vickery, Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan. Lawes, meanwhile, has been drafted in after it was confirmed that Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter will be out of action for eight weeks after tearing a calf muscle in his side's win over Worcester at the weekend.

Wilkinson's return to the international fold was widely expected, with the veteran fly-half enjoying something of a renaissance with new side Toulon. Thompson is also now plying his trade in France and he too was tipped for a recall even though his club, Brive, are currently languishing near the foot of the Top 14.

Johnson's options were severely limited by a plethora of injuries to key personnel, as evidenced by the fact that as well as Thompson and the uncapped trio, Ben Foden, Shane Geraghty, Andy Goode, Lewis Moody, David Strettle and Richard Wigglesworth also failed to make the original EPS squad. However, the former Leicester lock is happy with the quality available to him.

"We had to make a number of changes because of injuries but we have strength in depth, and each of the players coming in has the opportunity to push themselves into contention for the first match against Australia on November 7."

After taking on the Wallabies at Twickenham, England will then host Argentina seven days later before concluding their autumnal campaign with a mouth-watering clash with New Zealand on November 21.

England EPS squad for autumn internationals:

Forwards: Steffon Armitage (London Irish), David Barnes (Bath), Duncan Bell (Bath), Richard Blaze (Leicester Tigers), Steve Borthwick (Capt) (Saracens), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers), Tim Payne (London Wasps) Steve Thompson (Brive), David Wilson (Bath), Joe Worsley (London Wasps).

Backs: Matt Banahan (Bath), Danny Care (Harlequins), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Shane Geraghty (Northampton Saints), Andy Goode (Brive), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), David Strettle (Harlequins), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon).

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