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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK

St Hilaire books sevens place

Leeds Rhinos rugby league winger Marcus St Hilaire has secured a surprise place in England's 12-man sevens squad for the Commonwealth Games.

The 25-year-old has never even played a game of union before, and he admitted he thought it was a joke when England's assistant coach Damian McGrath initially called him up.

"When Damian first phoned I thought it was a wind-up," said St Hilaire, who has two full caps for England in the 13-man code.

"The Commonwealth Games provides a huge stage for me to show what I can do"
Marcus St Hilaire

"I have had a pretty bad time with injuries over the last 18 months and then haven't been able to establish myself back into the Leeds team, so to be chosen in an event such as this is a dream.

"I guess the switch is not as difficult as it would be playing 15-man union because the sevens game is quite similar to league, but it has been a steep learning process.

"Playing union is something I have always thought quite hard about, even though I don't have any experience of it."

St Hilaire is one of three players with rugby league experience in the squad for Manchester.

Former New Zealand rugby league international Henry Paul of Gloucester and Wasps winger Paul Sampson, who had a short stint with Wakefield, are also included.

Coach Joe Lydon has retained eight of the players who captured the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens title earlier in the year.

Saracens winger Richard Haughton and James Simpson-Daniel of Gloucester were the final two players to be cut from the initial 20-man training squad named by Lydon last month.

Simpson-Daniel made a big impact during the latter half of last season, but has not recovered fully from a foot injury.

The 20-year-old scored a hat-trick in the Hong Kong final against Fiji and also performed well for England against the Barbarians in the non-cap international at the end of last season.

"It was really unfortunate for James," said Lydon.

"It was probably the hardest decision I've had to make but his injury hadn't recovered enough for him to take part in the whole competition."

Lydon believes his squad has the ability to capture the gold medal, and does not feel St Hilaire will have any problems adjusting.

"It was always going to be a rush bringing him up to speed," said Lydon.

"Marcus' attitude to learning the basics has been excellent. He has all the skills required and I am confident he will do very well."

Phil Greening of Wasps will captain the side and is one of seven players in the squad to be fully-capped at international level.

Harlequins duo Pat Sanderson and Nick Duncombe, Paul Sampson and Josh Lewsey of Wasps, London Irish centre Geoff Appleford and Paul are the others.


England's 12-man squad:

S Amor (Gloucester), G Appleford (London Irish), N Duncombe (Harlequins), B Gollings (Harlequins), P Greening (Wasps), J Lewsey (Wasps), H Paul (Gloucester), T Roques (Saracens), P Sampson (Wasps), P Sanderson (Harlequins), M St Hilaire (Leeds Rhinos), R Thirlby (Bath)


Commonwealth Games sevens draw & seeding

Pool A
New Zealand
Scotland
Canada
Niue

Pool B
South Africa
Wales
Tonga
Sri Lanka

Pool C
England
Samoa
Cook Islands
Kenya

Pool D
Fiji
Australia
Malaysia
Trinidad & Tobago


Seeds:
1. New Zealand
2. South Africa
3. England
4. Fiji
5. Australia
6. Samoa
7. Wales
8. Scotland
9. Canada
10. Tonga
11. Cook Islands
12. Malaysia
13. Trinidad & Tobago
14. Kenya
15. Sri Lanka
16. Niue Islands

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