Bath’s code-hopper Sam Burgess has been included in the England Saxons squad to face Ireland Wolfhounds in Cork.
The 26 year-old arrived in union as arguably the finest rugby league player in the world after leading South Sydney Rabbitohs to the NRL title in 2014 and has impressed in Bath’s charge to second in the Aviva Premiership table.
Saracens’ 20-year-old lock Maro Itoje, captain of England’s U20s Junior World Championship-winning side last June and also skipper of Saracens Storm’s recent Aviva A League triumph, makes a first appearance in the second-string squad too.
There is an experienced feel to Jon Callard’s group, with many Test performers from the Internationals last November present.
Newcastle Falcons tight head Kieran Brookes, Wasps loose head Matt Mullan, Bath Rugby’s Rob Webber are available in the front row, while British and Irish Lions flanker Tom Croft makes a welcome return to the international fold.
Chris Ashton, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade are included as options on the wing, alongside precocious Exeter Chiefs fly half Henry Slade.
England Head Coach Stuart Lancaster will be at the Friday match at the Irish Independent Park and said players can force their way into contention for Six Nations inclusion.
“The match against the Wolfhounds in Cork gives us a great opportunity to take a look at a group of players who are right on the edge of the senior squad.
“And we also have the likes of David Strettle and Freddie Burns, who are very much in our thinking as options going forward.”
Forwards: Kieran Brookes, Tom Croft, Christian Day, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dave Ewers, Matt Garvey, Ross Harrison, Maro Itoje, Matt Kvesic, Matt Mullan, Henry Thomas, Thomas Waldrom, Alex Waller, Rob Webber
Backs: Chris Ashton, Sam Burgess, Elliot Daly, Ollie Devoto, Lee Dickson (c), Chris Pennell, Joe Simpson, Henry Slade, Marland Yarde, Christian Wade