Lawes replaces Easter for England

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The Independent Online

England team manager Martin Johnson opted for a mix of experience and youth today when he picked his squad for next month's internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.

With almost a full team of possible starters injured and on the sidelines for the 7 November opener against the Wallabies, Johnson recalled World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson and drafted in three uncapped players to his revised 32-man squad.



The British and Irish Lions front row of Phil Vickery, Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan is unavailable and backup Julian White was injured at the weekend, so Johnson recalled veteran prop Duncan Bell four years after his second and last international appearance.



But Thompson's return is the most remarkable.



The 31-year-old Thompson made 48 appearances for England before retiring in 2007 because of a serious neck injury. He returned later the same year after new medical advice and is still playing in France for Brive.



Thompson and Bell join Tim Payne and David Wilson, the only props remaining from Johnson's original senior elite player squad.



"The whole squad is looking forward to three very tough games in November," Johnson said. "We've had to make a number of changes to the Senior EPS because of injuries but we have strength in depth and each of the players coming in has the opportunity to push themselves into contention."



Bath prop David Barnes is one of the three uncapped players, along with lock Richard Blaze and Courtney Lawes, who replaces injured No. 8 Nick Easter.



Easter is out for four weeks after leaving Harlequins' weekend match against Worcester on crutches with a calf tear.



Easter, Vickery, Mears, Sheridan, Delon Armitage, Harry Ellis, Toby Flood, Riki Flutey, Olly Morgan, Tom Rees, Simon Shaw and White were the 12 players from the original squad not considered.



Armitage and Flutey were among the few players to enhance their reputations in last year's corresponding matches, when England beat the Pacific Islanders before losing by a combined 102-26 to New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.



Jonny Wilkinson is likely to play at flyhalf after recovering from a dislocated kneecap to make a strong start to the season for Toulouse.



The career of international rugby's leading scorer has been ravaged by a catalog of injuries and ailments since he teamed up with Johnson to help England win the World Cup in 2003.



England's revised squad for Investec Challenge Series matches against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand in November:

Forwards: S Armitage (London Irish), D Barnes (Bath), D Bell (Bath), R Blaze (Leicester), S Borthwick (Saracens, captain), G Chuter (Leicester), J Crane (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), L Deacon (Leicester), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Stade Francais), B Kay (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), L Moody (Leicester), T Payne (Wasps), S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), J Worsley (Wasps).

Backs: M Banahan (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), M Cueto (Sale), B Foden (Northampton), S Geraghty (Northampton), A Goode (Brive), D Hipkiss (Leicester), P Hodgson (London Irish), U Monye (Harlequins), D Strettle (Harlequins), M Tait (Sale), M Tindall (Gloucester) R Wigglesworth (Sale), J Wilkinson (Toulon).

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