Matt Stevens England call-up confirmed
Matt Stevens' return from the ignominy of a drugs ban continued today when he was confirmed in England's 45-man Rugby World Cup training squad.
The Saracens prop has been joined by five uncapped players at England's training camp - Manusamoa Tuilagi, Thomas Waldrom, Mouritz Botha, Joe Simpson and Charlie Sharples.
England manager Martin Johnson has also rewarded the Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw and Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth for their impressive seasons.
Stevens returned to action in January after serving a two-year suspension for cocaine use and he has not been on a losing side game since, helping Saracens win the Aviva Premiership title and the England Saxons to Churchill Cup success.
Capped 32 times by England, Stevens played in the 2007 World Cup final and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
At the other end of the experience scale, Johnson has drafted Leicester's 20-year-old centre Tuilagi into the training squad after a breakthrough season at Welford Road.
Tuilagi was voted the Premiership's young player of the year and would have been part of the Saxons campaign had he not been banned for punching Chris Ashton.
The 20-year-old was nearly deported last year after it emerged he did not have the right paperwork to be living in England.
Tuilagi, who has four brothers who played for Samoa, was granted indefinite leave to stay and declared his international allegiance to England.
Waldrom, the Leicester number eight, was born in New Zealand but qualifies to play for England after discovering during this season that his grandmother was born in the country.
Botha, who was born in South Africa and qualifies on residency grounds, has been in prime form for Saracens this year and impressed England's coaches during the recent Churchill Cup campaign.
Johnson will name his final 30-man squad for the tournament in New Zealand on August 22, before the final warm-up match against Ireland.
"Every one of these players has the chance to be in that final 30 going to New Zealand," he said.
"The camp is going to be intense and competitive, as you would expect leading up to a World Cup, but all the players are ready for it.
"We have guys such as Lewis Moody, Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall who have been in this situation before but also a lot of players who won't have experienced a World Cup training camp.
"It's now up to all of them to set down their marker over the next 10 weeks before we head to New Zealand."
There was no room for Gloucester lock Dave Attwood, who sustained a knee injury during the Churchill Cup, or Exeter flanker Tom Johnson in a competitive back row.
Saracens centre Brad Barritt made a strong case for selection during the season but England have picked five centres in Tuilagi, Tindall, Matt Banahan, Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape.
England's first-choice back three - Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto - are joined by Sharples, James Simpson-Daniel, Ugo Monye, David Strettle and Delon Armitage.
England have picked four scrum-halves in Ben Youngs, Danny Care, Wigglesworth and Simpson.
Up front, Stevens is one of seven props in the training squad but his ability to pack down on both sides leaves him in prime shape to win a seat on the plane.
Andrew Sheridan, Dan Cole and Alex Corbisiero all started games in the Six Nations and they are joined in the training squad by Stevens, Paul Doran-Jones, David Wilson and Tim Payne.
Waldrom has been drafted in because England lack depth behind Nick Easter at number eight - but they are strong on the flanks with Tom Wood, Tom Croft, James Haskell, Joe Worsley, Lewis Moody and Robshaw all named.
In the second row, Botha joins Courtney Lawes, Simon Shaw, Louis Deacon and Tom Palmer while front-line hookers Dylan Hartley and Steve Thompson have been joined by George Chuter and Lee Mears.
England's 45-man Rugby World Cup training squad:
FORWARDS: Mouritz Botha (Saracens), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Hendre Fourie (Sale Sharks), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), James Haskell (Unattached), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Lewis Moody (Bath Rugby), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Simon Shaw (London Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Steve Thompson (London Wasps), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), David Wilson (Bath Rugby), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Joe Worsley (London Wasps).
BACKS: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Riki Flutey (London Wasps), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Shontayne Hape (London Irish), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby), David Strettle (Saracens), Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).
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