Saxons aim for three-in-a-row
June 20, 2009
Tom Varndell will play on the wing against Ireland A © Getty Images
The England Saxons will aim to win their third Churchill Cup in a row when they take on Declan Kidney's Ireland Aon Sunday in Denver.
Stuart Lancaster's Saxons got to the final after a 56-17 thrashing of the USA, which included seven tries in a demolition job on the hosts.
Ireland reached the final with a comfortable 40-5 win over Georgia which meant they finished top of their pool. The Irish won in stormy conditions and scored six tries despite the game coming to an early finish due to the rain and the threat of a possible tornado.
England's Stephen Myler will keep his place at fly-half ahead of Danny Cipriani after an excellent performance by the Northampton player last week against the Eagles. Lancaster rested Cipriani for last week's match to look at the depth of his squad but Myler's efforts meant the Wasps star will be on the bench for Sunday's clash.
England make two changes from last Saturday's fixture with the return of Stuart Hooper, who led the Saxons to victory over the Jaguars in their first match, and Luke Narraway returning for Tom Guest. Shane Geraghty has recovered from a groin strain and will join Cipriani on the bench.
Lancaster said: "There have been some difficult selection decisions. I have been delighted with all the players and how they have responded and it says a tremendous amount about the character in the squad.
"For us it's a massive challenge we respect Ireland A with the quality of players and management they have over here. We have some young players and some very experienced Premiership players and our challenge has been to mould then into a team and produce performances we are proud of.
"We have had two tough games which we have leant a lot about the players and ourselves on the journey and I'm sure we will learn a lot more come Sunday. But whatever the outcome rest assured they are a committed group of players who will do their best and be proud to represent England in the final."
Ireland have made seven changes to the side that beat Georgia as Kidney continues his rotation policy so the Irish management can see their more inexperienced players playing international rugby. Jonathan Sexton is the most notable inclusion and he will make his first start at fly-half after the Irish won their first two games with a bonus point in each victory.
Kidney said: "Sunday is a massive challenge for the team to play the defending Churchill Cup champions, but one they are all looking forward to. England has huge strength in depth and could easily put out another two or three sides of similar strength, so it will require a really good performance from us.
"The Saxons has been impressive in their first two games and I am sure they will want to retain their title which will give them a three-in-a-row. Our games in the Churchill Cup and the senior tour were all about exposing the players to international level rugby and also allowing the coaches to work with the players more closely. The previous two games allowed us to do that and it has been a good experience for all of us."
Ireland's captain Neil Best said: "It's a great honour for me to captain the team and I was delighted when Declan asked me to do the job.It's been a great tournament for us so far and we are looking forward to Sunday.
"Playing in England, I obviously now quite a lot of the Saxons squad and they are an excellent side, so we really need to bring our best performance out for the last game."
England Saxons: Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby), Noah Cato (Saracens), Dominic Waldouck (London Wasps) Brad Barritt (Saracens) Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers), Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints), Micky Young (Newcastle Falcons), David Flatman (Bath Rugby), Rob Webber (London Wasps), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Stuart Hooper (Bath Rugby), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), Phil Dowson (Newcastle Falcons, capt), Ben Woods (Leicester Tigers), Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby)
Replacements: Tom Mercey (Saracens), Joe Ward (London Wasps), Dean Schofield (Sale Sharks), Tom Guest (Harlequins), Joe Simpson (London Wasps) , Danny Cipriani (London Wasps), Shane Geraghty (London Irish),
Ireland A: Felix Jones (Seapoint/Leinster), Denis Hurley (Cork Constitution/Munster), Fergus McFadden (UCD/Leinster), Keith Matthews (Buccaneers/Connacht), Johne Murphy (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary's College/Leinster), Isaac Boss (Ballymena/Ulster), Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster), Sean Cronin (Buccaneers/Connacht), Tony Buckley (Shannon/Munster), Donnacha Ryan (Shannon/Munster), Devin Toner (Lansdowne/Leinster), Neil Best (Northampton Saints) (capt), Niall Ronan (Shannon/Munster), Chris Henry (Ballymena/Ulster),
Replacements: Denis Fogarty (Cork Constitution/Munster), Bryan Young (Ballymena/Ulster), Trevor Hogan (Blackrock College/Leinster), John Muldoon (Galwegians/Connacht), Simon Keogh (OId Belvedere/Leinster), Niall O'Connor (Belfast Harlequins/Ulster), James Downey (Northampton Saints)
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