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Hodgson set for 'another debut'

Charlie Hodgson is set to make his first England start since his international career was effectively declared over in Saturday's Calcutta Cup showdown with Scotland.

The Saracens fly-half is preparing to pilot a new-look England team featuring three debutants in centres Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt, plus either Phil Dowson or Ben Morgan at number eight.

England interim head coach Stuart Lancaster will confirm his line-up later today. At least eight of the 22-man squad will be uncapped.

Hodgson, 31, has had to get used to making comebacks over the course of his decade-long England career, but admits there is a sense of this one being like a second debut.

After knee reconstructions ruled him out of both the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, Hodgson was served up as the fall guy when England were beaten 37-20 by New Zealand on the 2008 summer tour.

Rob Andrew, then England's acting head coach, delivered the withering assessment that "bits of Test rugby are not optional" after Hodgson had been swatted aside by All Blacks centre Ma'a Nonu.

Hodgson was dropped and has not started a Test match since and at times he grew disillusioned with sitting behind Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood in the pecking order, but he was always determined to improve those defensive frailties.

Last summer Hodgson moved to Saracens, arguably the best defensive side in England, and on Saturday his international chance will come again.

"It could feel like a debut," said Hodgson, who has won 36 Test caps in 10 years. "I feel very proud to be given the opportunity to be involved again. Who knows where it goes? I have learned not to look too far ahead.

"I never really thought (it would end with England). It was always a case of working hard and never losing belief in my own ability. For me it is pleasing to be back in the squad. Is it worth it? The fact that I have gone through those (hard) times and come out the other side is a good judge of character."


From Belfast Telegraph