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Five Test players named in England A team, including Charlie Ewels

By Liam Heagney
This Sunday's skipper Charlie Ewels played in the last England A fixture in 2016 (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

England have named an A team to take Portugal this Sunday in Leicester that includes eight players – including skipper Charlie Ewels – who have been training with Steve Borthwick’s senior team in recent weeks.

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Along with Max Ojomoh, Harry Randall and Joe Heyes, Ewels was one of four players added to George Skivington’s A squad on Tuesday evening following two days of training at Pennyhill with the senior squad ahead of their game against Scotland in the Guinness Six Nations.

They were joined at Loughborough University by Oscar Beard, Will Muir, Jamie Blamire and Tom Pearson, another quartet with Six Nations training involvement this month.

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Skipper Ewels, who is one of five Test-capped players in the A team, is the sole link with the last England side that played at this level eight years ago as he was a starting lock when the then-named Saxons defeated South Africa A in George in 2016.

Aside from Ewels, the other four Test players in Sunday’s starting XV are Randall, Blamire, Heyes and Pearson. Of the match day 23 for the Mattioli Woods Welford Road fixture, 17 have come through the RFU men’s pathway system with caps at either England U18 or U20 age-grade level.

Head coach Skivington said: “It’s been great to get together with the group this week at Loughborough and I have been really impressed by the high standards they have shown. We have put the boys through a challenging programme that has tested them to the intense rigor that Portugal will arrive with on Sunday.

“Our visitors are in the midst of the Rugby Europe Championship and will no doubt be using Sunday as an opportunity to experiment, but their strength as a union has been evident recently. They will certainly provide a stern test for us, but it’s a test that the players and the coaching staff are relishing.

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“I’m really excited to see the side take to the field against Portugal on Sunday. I really believe we have assembled a squad that possesses some of the most exciting developing talent the Gallagher Premiership has to offer, and I’m sure they’ll put on a show for the fans in Leicester.”

England (vs Portugal, Sunday)
15. Josh Hodge (Exeter Chiefs, Vale of Lune RUFC)
14. Cadan Murley (Harlequins, Wadebridge Camels RFC)
13. Oscar Beard (Harlequins, Farnham RUFC)
12. Max Ojomoh (Bath Rugby, Chippenham RFC)
11. Will Muir (Bath Rugby, Guisborough RUFC)
10. Charlie Atkinson (Gloucester Rugby, Oxford RFC)
9. Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, Tycroes RFC, 6 caps)
1. Fin Baxter (Harlequins, Cobham RFC)
2. Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, Seaton Rangers ARLFC, 7 caps)
3. Joe Heyes (Leicester Tigers, Nottingham Moderns RFC & Newark RFC, 7 caps)
4. Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs, Devonport Services RFC)
5. Charlie Ewels (capt) (Bath Rugby, Bournemouth Rugby, 30 caps)
6. Tom Pearson (Northampton Saints, Bromyard Rugby Club, 1 cap)
7. Guy Pepper (Newcastle Falcons, Barnard Castle Rugby Club)
8. Alfie Barbeary (Bath Rugby, Banbury RUFC)

Replacements:
16. Sam Riley (Harlequins, Chobham RFC)
17. Tarek Haffar (Northampton Saints, Grasshoppers RFC)
18. Josh Iosefa-Scott (Exeter Chiefs, Melville Rugby)
19. Ben Bamber (Sale Sharks, Langworthy Reds ARLFC)
20. Greg Fisilau (Exeter Chiefs, Devonport Services RFC)
21. Caolan Englefield (Gloucester Rugby, Old Rutlishians Rugby)
22. Jamie Shillcock (Leicester Tigers, Southam RUFC)
23. Oliver Hartley (Saracens, Hammersmith and Fulham Rugby Club)

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J
Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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