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Saxons soldier on with Semesa

Bath's Fiiji-born wing Semesa Rokoduguni is a surprise inclusion in a 25-man England Saxons training squad for next week's clash against the Irish Wolfhounds at Gloucester.

Rokoduguni, a soldier in the British Army with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, qualifies for England on residency grounds.

The 26-year-old signed a senior contract with Bath just 15 months ago and was among their try-scorers in the Amlin Challenge Cup victory over Bordeaux-Begles on Thursday night.

Rokoduguni, who has played for the British Army in the Middlesex Sevens, is among 10 players called in from outside the Saxons' elite player squad.

The group also includes Wasps wing Tom Varndell, Exeter fly-half Henry Slade, Northampton prop Alex Waller and Harlequins hooker Dave Ward as they step up for players either injured or elevated to the senior England squad that assembles next Monday ahead of the RBS 6 Nations Championship.

Apart from facing the Wolfhounds, the Saxons will also tackle Scotland A in Glasgow on January 31.

Reflecting on the selection, England head coach Stuart Lancaster said: "We've followed Semesa's progress since his days in the British Army.

"He's excited about playing England after qualifying by residence, and his form and the feedback from the Bath coaches has been excellent this season.

"Our philosophy on selection is to give some younger players an opportunity alongside one or two more established players who are looking to push into the senior squad.

"It is a great opportunity for players to put a marker down and show they have the ability to go from club to country and still deliver the club form many of them have been showing.

"The opportunities ahead of them are clear with a major tour to New Zealand to come this summer before the Rugby World Cup next year.

"We have a good blend in the back-line with the likes of Henry Slade and Sam Hill stepping up from the England Under-20 side that won the Junior World Championship last summer.

"In the back three, we're all excited about seeing Mathew Tait in an England shirt once more, and having him, Elliot Daly, Tom Varndell and Semesa Rokoduguni available means we are strong in that area, and we will rotate the squad so everyone will get an opportunity."

England Saxons training squad: Backs - M Benjamin (Leicester), F Burns (Gloucester), E Daly (Wasps), S Hill (Exeter), J Joseph (Bath), D Lewis (Exeter), J Simpson (Wasps), H Slade (Exeter), S Rokoduguni (Bath), M Tait (Leicester), T Varndell (Wasps).

Forwards - N Catt (Bath), C Clark (Northampton), W Collier (Harlequins), S Dickinson (Northampton), D Ewers (Exeter), J George (Saracens), J Gibson (Leicester), G Kitchener (Leicester), G Kruis (Saracens), C Matthews (Harlequins), L Wallace (Harlequins), A Waller (Northampton), D Ward (Harlequins), S Wilson (Newcastle).

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