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Ashton in Sevens squad

Saracens have included England winger Chris Ashton in their squad for the JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens.

Ashton, 26, was heavily criticised during the latter half of last season after a Six Nations campaign where his defensive abilities came under scrutiny.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster elected to give the former Wigan rugby league man a rest while the Red Rose toured Argentina earlier this summer, and Saracens have opted to use him as part of their Sevens squad after his extended break.

Saracens are not alone in including high-profile players for the annual pre-season tournament. Tom Varndell is part of the Wasps squad, while Gloucester include Fiji flanker Akapusi Qera.

Saracens have also announced a partnership with United Arab Emirates club Abu Dhabi Saracens RFC.

The link-up will see Saracens coaches and community staff provide support to the overseas club, while talented players from the UAE will get the chance to experience the professional set-up with the Aviva Premiership side. Both teams will wear Saracens kit.

Saracens chairman Nigel Wray said: "We are delighted Abu Dhabi Saracens have joined the newly-formed global network of Saracens clubs, and we look forward to helping Abu Dhabi Saracens prosper both on the field, leading the way in Emirates rugby, and off the field, running programmes that support their community."

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