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Stooke in line for Saxons debut

Gloucester's 20-year-old lock Elliott Stooke is in line for his England Saxons debut after replacing injured Leicester second row Graham Kitchener.

Just four years ago Stooke was overlooked for Gloucestershire Under-16s, now he has won a call-up to England's senior second-string outfit.

The England Under-20s graduate is one of four changes to England's second-string squad to face Ireland Wolfhounds at Kingsholm on Saturday.

Leicester full-back Mathew Tait has suffered a back injury, just five games after returning from a long-term absence after foot surgery.

Harlequins' Matt Hopper replaces Bath's Jonathan Joseph and Northampton Saints prop Tom Mercey takes over from Harlequin Will Collier as England count the cost of round six of Heineken Cup pool action.

Leicester wing Miles Benjamin and flanker Jamie Gibson will be assessed at the end of the week.

Saxons bosses hope to have the pair available for the Glasgow trip to face Scotland A on January 31.

Gloucester academy graduate Stooke helped England Under-20s drive to their first-ever Junior World Championship title last summer.

The former Stow on the Wold junior missed the final after dislocating his elbow, despite a pivotal showing in the semi-final victory over New Zealand before that blow.

Breaking into Hartpury College's Under-18s helped Stooke kick-start his progress, before jumping from England Under-18s to the Under-20s two years early.

Stooke signed a new contract with Gloucester last month, and has already racked up 19 appearances in his breakthrough campaign at Kingsholm.

Former Newcastle Falcon Tait trudged out of Leicester's 22-19 Heineken Cup defeat to Ulster at Welford Road on Saturday after just 38 minutes.

Tait's injury jinx continues, this back problem costing him his latest opportunity to outline his credentials to England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Tait has won 38 caps in total since his 2004 debut as a callow teenager against Wales, where Gavin Henson unceremoniously dumped him on his backside.

The threatening strike runner has completed the switch from centre to full-back since his move to Welford Road.

Mike Brown and Alex Goode are Lancaster's principal full-backs, but with Rugby World Cup 2015 fringing the horizon Lancaster is keen to review all options.

Every England coach since Andy Robinson has viewed Tait as a player of the greatest potential.

Nearly a decade on from that debut though, he is still battling to bring his startling ability to bear consistently on the world stage.

Tait has made just 32 Leicester appearances since his 2011 switch from home club Newcastle.

England are not giving up hope that Alex Corbisiero, Ben Foden and Marland Yarde can play some part in the RBS 6 Nations.

Head coach Lancaster included the injured trio in the training squad called to Pennyhill Park on Monday, to begin preparations for the tournament opener against France on February 1.

Northampton Saints prop Corbisiero continues to battle knee trouble, while club-mate Foden has knee ligament problems of his own.

London Irish flyer Yarde ruptured a tendon in his hip in November and was initially ruled out of Six Nations contention.

The 21-year-old's prognosis has continued to improve, though, and this step is the first significant proof England are not ready to accept defeat in Yarde's fitness battle.

England met at their base to begin readying themselves for the trip to France, with no new injury concerns.


From Belfast Telegraph