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Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Monday, 26 October 2009

Injury-hit England make changes

Richard Blaze, David Barnes and Courtney Lawes
Blaze, Barnes and Lawes are the only uncapped players in the squad

England have called up veteran Bath prop David Barnes and uncapped forwards Richard Blaze and Courtney Lawes for the autumn internationals.

A series of injuries have stretched England's resources, with nearly 20 players unavailable.

Fly-half Andy Goode, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth, winger David Strettle, back-rower James Haskell and prop Duncan Bell all join the elite squad.

Experienced forwards Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody also return.

Former Wasps star James Haskell has rejoined to the squad despite his move to Stade Francais, after England manager Martin Johnson warned players in the summer that they could be damaging their international chances by joining Top 14 clubs.

Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who is expected to regain the number 10 shirt after rejuvenating his career with a move to Toulon, Brive stand-off Goode and hooker Thompson are the other French-based players in the 32-man squad.

Saracens lock Steve Borthwick will continue to captain the side for the games against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

"I'm incredibly excited - it's going to be a fantastic challenge," Borthwick told BBC Radio 5 live.

"As a squad, we will put in a lot of hard work to get the team prepared and build the partnerships as quickly as possible.

"Obviously there are a fair few injuries. But this gives opportunities to other players and they will be very excited about the challenge ahead. There's always been competition for places and it will illustrate how deep our squad is.

"We can't do anything about the opposition or about the players who are out through injury - what we can do is focus on the players that are here and build the team as well as we possibly can.

"That's the challenge. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves about the players who aren't available or we can look at who is available and get ourselves as well-prepared as possible."

Johnson added: "We've had to make a number of changes to the senior squad because of injuries but we have strength in depth and each of the players coming in has the opportunity to push themselves into contention for the first match against Australia."

With the huge number of injuries sustained among his squad in the early stages of the season, Johnson was always going to have to ring the changes for the November Tests.

The front row was an area of particular concern after the entire first-choice unit of Andrew Sheridan, Lee Mears and Phil Vickery all fell victim to injuries.

Johnson has turned to the uncapped 33-year-old Barnes, also chairman of the Professional Rugby Players' Association, and his 35-year-old Bath team-mate Bell - last capped back in 2005 - to boost his options at prop.

England hooker Steve Thompson
Thompson, along with Johnson, was in the 2003 World Cup-winning side

Another Bath player David Wilson, 24, and Wasps' Tim Payne are the other choices available to Johnson at prop.

And 2003 World Cup winner Thompson, who retired from the sport with a neck injury before changing his mind, has joined Dylan Hartley and George Chuter among the elite squad's hookers after returning to the international fold on England's summer tour of Argentina.

But every section of the team has been overhauled in the wake of injuries to the likes of Delon Armitage, Nick Easter, Harry Ellis, Toby Flood, Riki Flutey, Olly Morgan, Tom Rees, Simon Shaw and Julian White.

At lock, Leicester's Blaze, 24, has been called up in place of the 36-year-old Shaw, while 20-year-old Lawes - who replaces number eight Easter in the squad - is equally at home in the second or back row.

Easter had been a doubt, and it has now been confirmed that he will miss at least four weeks with a calf injury.

606: DEBATE
KwanMaker

At scrum-half, Sale's Wigglesworth could get the chance to restart his Test career after last featuring for England on the ill-fated tour to New Zealand in 2008, although Harlequins' Danny Care and London Irish's Paul Hodgson are likely to be ahead of him in the coaches' thinking.

Goode replaces Flood at fly-half, although Wilkinson is in the box seat to start against Australia.

In the backline, Strettle comes in for Delon Armitage and utility back Ben Foden replaces Morgan.

England's first game is against Australia on 7 November at Twickenham before Tests against Argentina (14 November) and New Zealand (21 November).


England's revised elite player squad:

Forwards:

Steffon Armitage (London Irish), David Barnes (Bath Rugby), Duncan Bell (Bath Rugby), Richard Blaze (Leicester Tigers), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, captain), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Lewis Moody (Leicester Tigers), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Steve Thompson (CA Brive), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Joe Worsley (London Wasps).

Backs:

Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Shane Geraghty (Northampton Saints), Andy Goode (CA Brive), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester Tigers), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), David Strettle (Harlequins), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks), Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon).



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see also
Waldouck ruled out for four weeks
27 Oct 09 |  London Wasps
Wilkinson 'better than in 2003'
24 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
London Irish 18-12 Leicester
24 Oct 09 |  English
Vickery joins England casualties
20 Oct 09 |  English
Sheridan faces Six Nations race
19 Oct 09 |  English
Cipriani & Rees blow for England
09 Oct 09 |  English
England hit by Turner-Hall injury
24 Sep 09 |  English
Armitage to miss November Tests
15 Sep 09 |  English
Flutey faces three-month lay-off
14 Sep 09 |  English
Wilkinson returns to England fold
07 Jul 09 |  English
Thompson set for surprise return
23 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union


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