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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Regan says England can be heroes
England hooker Mark Regan
Bristol hooker Regan last played for England in 2004
Saturday, 26 May
Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 1400 BST
Live on BBC Radio Five Live and BBC Sport website

Hooker Mark Regan is keen to replicate England's 27-22 win over South Africa seven years ago on their return to Bloemfontein on Saturday.

"It is a chance for everyone to go away as possible heroes," said Regan, one of two players remaining from that game.

"People here could achieve something special. It is a big ask, and if we do it, it would be a massive achievement."

An under-strength squad has been written off ahead of the first Test but Regan is determined to take his chance.

England are without over 30 players for the trip and the squad includes seven uncapped players.

Comparisons have been made with this trip and the tour to South Africa, New Zealand and Australia in 1998, when they lost all seven games.

It is a nice feeling to be back involved, I am immensely proud

Mark Regan

"The challenge is we don't make this tour a tour of hell," he said.

"It's a massive challenge, but the reason you play the game is because it's all about challenges.

"Personally, you can't get any bigger than playing South Africa - the most physical team in world rugby - in their own back yard.

"It will be a test of everyone's character, but we've been down to Bloemfontein before with an England side and won. I was involved in that game, so we are looking at the positives.

"You have just got to do your best. It's not about the guys back home, it is about the guys who are here."

Regan returns to England action after three years out of the international spotlight.

The 35-year-old front rower went on the tour to New Zealand and Australia in 2004 but quit the international stage after being overlooked by Sir Clive Woodward's successor Andy Robinson for the Test against Canada that year.

After Robinson was dismissed at the end of last year, Regan offered his services to new coach Brian Ashton.

"When Brian took over, I rang him up in January and I said if he wanted me I would be there for him because I was happy with the coaching set-up that had been selected," added Regan.

"It is a nice feeling to be back involved. I am immensely proud, and I know my family is as well. Back then, I closed the door - you all know the reasons - but I have been given another chance.

"It is a slightly more relaxed atmosphere than three years ago and the players and coaches interact, which is the main thing. You get a lot of feedback."

Regan revealed the new laid-back approach led to him giving Ashton a sore nose during a training session.

Ashton was standing in for fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who missed training with a stomach bug and Regan said: "It was accidental, I was missing a partner so Brian stepped in.

"He just fell awkwardly, head-first into the ground. I picked him up and brushed him down, he got a scratch on the nose. It is good that he interacts with the players."

Wilkinson trained in Johannesburg on Wednesday despite having picked up the non-food-related stomach bug that has also affected David Strettle, James Simpson-Daniel and members of the England management team.

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