May 31, 2007
London Irish players are queueing up to force their way into England's representative sides after a richly-entertaining Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup campaign at the Madejski Stadium.
Mike Catt led England in the RBS Six Nations, Shane Geraghty stunned France at Twickenham and Topsy Ojo is flying out to join England in South Africa today.
The latest on the conveyor belt is Nils Mordt, the 23-year-old who makes his first Barclays Churchill Cup start against the New Zealand Maori side at Twickenham on Saturday.
He takes over at inside centre from Olly Barkley, who switches to fly-half with Danny Cipriani switching to full-back against the holders.
Mordt, who was born in Zimbabwe, is a product of the Exiles Academy system from which Geraghty, Ojo, Saxons hooker David Paice and full-back Delon Armitage have all graduated in the last two years.
In the process he represented England at Under-19 and Under-21 level before winning a silver medal for England Sevens at last year's Commonwealth Games.
"Personally the last couple of years been a very exciting time for me," he said.
"I was involved in the Sevens last year, lucky enough to go to the Commonwealth Games then didn't get much game time behind Mike Catt and had a knee ligament injury at the end of last season.
"But this season I've played a dozen or so games after coming back against Leicester in December and what's been happening at Irish is a testament to good signings and a lot of players maturing. There were eight of us in the initial Saxons squad and that shows that the selectors have taken notice that we're doing and given us a chance.
"We've got to be very positive against New Zealand Maori. We're playing on our home ground and of course they'll be apprehensive.
"They're a big powerful team but we have to play to our strengths and meet their physicality head on. In the games they've played so far they've been able to offload the ball and cause teams problems and we'll have to shut that down."
Mordt's emergence is also a testament to the work of of Catt and director of rugby Brian Smith in developing his skills.
"Brian Smith is very keen that every back has the all the skills to play in a number of different positions - for the 10 and the 12 to be able to read the lines wings and full-backs are running and for the 12 and 13 to be interchangeable," he said. "The individual work he's done with me has helped me come on a lot.
"Mike Catt's also been a great help working with the young players and both he and Brian Smith played in a lot of different positions, Brian in rugby league as well, and that versatility and knowledge brings lots of little things you can use to improve your game.
England Saxons team to play against New Zealand Maori
Barclays Churchill Cup Final
Twickenham Stadium, Saturday 2 June, kick off 4.30pm
15 Danny Cipriani (London Wasps)
14 Paul Sackey (London Wasps)*
13 Kevin Sorrell (Saracens)
12 Nils Mordt (London Irish)
11 Tom Voyce (London Wasps)*
10 Olly Barkley (Bath Rugby)*
9 Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks)
1 Neal Hatley (London Irish, captain)
2 David Paice (London Irish)
3 John Brooks (Northampton Saints)
4 Richard Blaze (Worcester Warriors)
5 Jim Evans (NEC Harlequins)
6 James Haskell (London Wasps)*
7 Will Skinner (NEC Harlequins)
8 Phil Dowson (Newcastle Falcons)
16 Matt Thompson (Newcastle Falcons)
17 Jack Forster (Gloucester Rugby)
18 Tom Mercey (Saracens)
19 Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
20 Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)
21 Lee Dickson (Newcastle Falcons)
22 Ayoola Erinle (London Wasps)
* denotes capped players