June 23, 2011
New Zealander Thomas Waldrom will hope to be included in Martin Johnson's 30-man squad for the Rugby World Cup © Getty Images
A headline-grabbing 27% of the 45 players set to challenge for a place in Johnson's final 30-man squad were born overseas - a fact 'celebrated' by the latest edition of Scrum Sevens
Wasps' uncapped scrum-half Joe Simpson was born in Sydney, earning himself the ingenious nickname 'Dingo.' Born to a New Zealand mother and a British father, Simpson was brought up essentially on rugby. Educated in Ealing, Simpson played in the same Richmond youth team as Wasps team-mate Dom Waldouck. Simpson has appeared for England, from the bench against the Australian Barbarians, but it was an uncapped match. With an expected three scrum-half slots available, the rapid Simpson will hope to gatecrash the party and take a seat on the plane to New Zealand.
With 20-years of distinguished service under his belt, Simon Shaw is as English as afternoon tea but for the purpose of Scrum Sevens, he ticks the box due to his Nairobi roots. The no-nonsense lock made the switch from Bristol to Wasps in 1997 but not before he had made his debut for England in 1996.
To date he has earned a total of 66 England caps in a 15-year international career and punctuated his CV as a stand-out performer during the 2009 British & Irish Lions' tour to South Africa. The veteran produced arguably one of the greatest second-row performances against the Springboks in the second Test and will hope to have a similar impact with England in New Zealand later this year by which time he will be 38.
Leicester flanker Thomas Waldrom is the latest Kiwi to be drafted into the England ranks and joins the likes of Riki Flutey, Shontayne Hape and Dylan Hartley in battling for a chance to feature for their adopted country on 'home' soil. Flutey already has 13 Test caps to his name while Hape and Hartley are also squad regulars but the call-up of Tigers No.8 Waldrom will raise the most eyebrows as he has only played one full season in English rugby since his move from the Canterbury Crusaders in the summer of 2010.
Waldrom dropped behind club rival Jordan Crane in the Welford Road pecking order this season but Johnson clearly prefers the New Zealander to the England Saxons captain who led the second string to Churchill Cup glory this year. Crane will be frustrated at missing out despite not venting his feelings publically on Twitter, unlike his fellow back-row Luke Narraway who commented '#notbittermuch'.
While four of his brothers have turned out for Samoa, Manu Tuilagi has long-since pledged his international future to England - but it took a fight with the Home Office to prove his allegiance. Tuilagi had a remarkable 2010-11 season, appearing for the Tigers on 20 occasions and scoring seven tries in the process. After featuring for the Saxons in February, it looked like Tuilagi would be a key asset to the Saxons' Churchill Cup campaign, but following a disagreement with Chris Ashton's jaw, Tuilagi missed out due to suspension.
On his day, Tuilagi has the brawn and ability to trouble even the most battle-hardened of defences, but his lack of big match experience and doubts over his ability to stay cool in pressure situations may count against him.
W.B.Thomson, born in Zimbabwe, was the first Southern African-born player to represent England at rugby union back in 1892 and since then England have benefitted from their southern hemisphere rivals with the most famous export being Port Elizabeth-born Mike Catt. Other South African born players including Stuart Abbott, Michael Horak, Geoff Appleford and Nick Abendanon have followed Catt into the national side in recent years.
South African-born players have a strong representation in Johnson's 45-man squad with Saracens' Matt Stevens and Mouritz Botha receiving a call up alongside Sale's Hendre Fourie. Stevens will hope to pull on an England shirt for the first time in three years during their World Cup warm-up in August while Fourie enjoyed game time during the 2011 Six Nations. Botha's call-up is in all likelihood at the expense of former England captain and Saracens team-mate Steve Borthwick, but Botha's consistency will have impressed the former lock Johnson.
Delon Armitage, born in San Fernando, was the first West Indian to play for England. Armitage moved to Roquefort-les-Pins on the French Riviera in 1996 and began to play for Rugby Nice Cote d'Azur Universite-Racing. After being rejected from the French U16s, Armitage moved back to London and re-joined Richmond before being picked up by his current club London Irish.
Armitage made his debut for England against the Pacific Islanders in 2008 and has accumulated 19 caps since. Armitage and his flanker brother Steffon, also born in the Caribbean, were the first brothers to play for England since the Underwood's when they took the field against Italy in 2009. Having had a season disrupted due to disciplinary problems, Armitage has much to prove on and off the field.
The New York-born 22-year-old Alex Corbisiero has featured for London Irish since the 2008-09 season and his Test debut in this year's Six Nations capped a meteoric rise for the prop who is partial to some impromptu rapping. Having played age-grade rugby and featured for the Saxons, it was fitting that Italian-American Corbisiero made his debut against the Azzurri where he ably coped with Martin Castrogiovanni. He will face competition from the returning Andrew Sheridan for a space in the XV for England, but the 22 year-old should be on the plane to New Zealand having acquitted himself well on the four occasions he has pulled on the red rose jersey.
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