Hodgson handed England chance

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The Independent Online

Charlie Hodgson will return to England colours for the first time in two years on Sunday after being named as the starting fly-half to face the Barbarians at Twickenham.

Harlequins number eight Nick Easter will captain a team that includes three uncapped players in the starting XV - Gloucester lock Dave Attwood, Newcastle prop Jon Golding and Bath centre Shontayne Hape.

England manager Martin Johnson is without his Leicester contingent - including incumbent captain Lewis Moody - who are involved in Saturday's Guinness Premiership final against Saracens.

In the absence of Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson for the non-cap international, Hodgson has been given the chance to relaunch an England career that hit the buffers on the ill-fated 2008 tour to New Zealand.

The Sale fly-half was hauled off after 50 minutes of the first Test against the All Blacks and condemned by the England coaches as a defensive liability.

Rob Andrew, England's stand-in manager on the tour, had blasted: "Some bits of Test rugby aren't optional."

But Martin Johnson has been impressed by the improvements Hodgson has made in that area over the last 24 months.

Saracens-bound winger David Strettle also returns to the senior England team for the first time since the 2008 tour, while Olly Barkley is back on the bench.

Both played their last Test, alongside Hodgson, in Auckland 2008.

Johnson is keen to take a look at Hape, the former New Zealand rugby league international, who was a member of England's Six Nations squad but has yet to make an appearance.

Johnson confirmed that Moody will captain the full 44-man squad for the five-match tour to Australia and New Zealand.

England will play two Tests against the Wallabies and two midweek matches against the Australian Barbarians before finishing up against the New Zealand Maori.

"Nick will be captain on Sunday and Lewis Moody will captain the tour party to Australia," said Johnson.

"We have picked a strong team. The Leicester boys play on Saturday but some guys haven't played since May 8 and some guys have had a long season - (Northampton winger) Chris Ashton has probably played the most games so it was simple to leave him out this week.

"It is exciting to see Jon Golding playing for England, same as Dave Attwood at four and Shontayne who was around our squad in the Six Nations but didn't get a chance, for whatever reason.

"The whole point of taking an extended squad on tour was to give them rugby at a high level

"Dave Strettle is a guy who has been around the squad but he got injured then ill so he couldn't tour last year. It is good to see him back.

"The same with Olly, who has had his injury problems, but his form at the end brought him right back into contention.

"Charlie has been around Test level for a number of years."

England team to play the Barbarians for the Mastercard Trophy at Twickenham on Sunday, May 30, kick-off 5pm:

B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), S Hape (Bath), D Strettle (Harlequins); C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), D Care (Harlequins); J Golding (Newcastle), S Thompson (Brive), P Doran-Jones (Gloucester), D Attwood (Gloucester), T Palmer (Stade Francais), J Haskell (Stade Francais), S Armitage (London Irish), N Easter (Harlequins, capt).

Replacements: L Mears (Bath), T Payne (Wasps), D Ward-Smith (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), J Simpson (Wasps), O Barkley (Bath), M Tait (Sale Sharks).