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Lancaster: "Clark has learnt his lesson"
ESPN Staff
January 9, 2013

Head coach Stuart Lancaster has backed England rookie Calum Clark to succeed at international level and believes his call-up to the England senior squad is the perfect opportunity for the Northampton forward to rebuild his reputation on the rugby field.

Clark was banned from rugby after deliberately breaking the arm of an opponent last year. The 23-year-old had been on the fringes of the international squad before the incident last March. However, having served the ban Lancaster says that Clark now has the temperament and ability to make his mark at international level and will be useful as a utility forward.

"I have coached him since he was 14 and I know him well enough to know that he is hugely regretful of the incident," said Lancaster. "When he went into the hearing he didn't do anything other than put his hands up and say, 'I made a bad mistake, I apologise'.

"He has never felt anything other than remorse. He has served his punishment, a 32-week ban. I was disappointed we ended up in the situation that (he) missed out on developing himself for club and country. Massively. But equally, as with other players in the past, I think everyone deserves a second chance - and certainly he does.

"I have watched his games closely and observed his behaviour to make sure he is on the right side of where he should be. He has a competitive nature but he is channelling that in the right way. I know what he can offer."

Lancaster has also called-up the Gloucester pairing of Freddie Burns and Billy Twelvetrees to add options in the backs. Fly-half Burns made his debut at Twickenham last December in England's 38-21 win over New Zealand, while centre Twelvetrees has impressed Lancaster with his club form for the Cherry and Whites.

"Their form for their club (is what has impressed me)," Lancaster said."They have performed well together. They each credit the other for their form. They are coming into very competitive positions. We have Toby Flood and Owen Farrell at 10 who have played well for us. Billy comes in against Brad Barritt, who has been exceptional in the autumn and for Saracens. It was a tight call between Billy Twelvetrees and Anthony Allen but we wanted to get a chance to work with Billy.We are really excited about this squad going forward."

Elsewhere in the backs, Lancaster has opted for Saracens winger David Strettle on the left over Gloucester's Charlie Sharples, while Chris Ashton keeps his place on the right wing. In-form London Wasps and England Saxons speedster Christian Wade is on Lancaster's radar and he says that both Strettle and Wade will be pushing for positions in the starting line-up.

"The 33-man squad gives us depth," Lancaster said."The opportunity for David has come alongside a move to the left wing. We have Christian Wade (in the Saxons) pushing Chris Ashton very hard on the right wing. David has moved to left at Saracens and his form has been outstanding but Mike Brown was fantastic there against the All Blacks."

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