December 17, 2008
England Saxons will kick off their 2009 campaign against Portugal at Edgeley Park, Stockport, the home of Sale Sharks, on Friday January 30 (kick off 8pm, live on Sky Sports).
The following week they travel to Dublin to take on Ireland A at Donnybrook on Friday February 6 (kick off 7.30pm).
England Saxons have been unbeaten for two years and last season recorded back to back victories over Ireland A (31-13) and Italy A (15-38) before retaining the Barclays Churchill Cup.
The Saxons is the final stepping stone to full England honours and fans will see some of the country's finest emerging talents hoping to follow in the footsteps of Delon Armitage and Danny Care, who commanded regular first team places in November's Investec Challenge series and Nick Kennedy, Topsy Ojo, Jordan Crane and Dylan Hartley, who have also been capped at Test level since shining for the Saxons last season.
Said Stuart Lancaster, England Saxons Head Coach, "England Saxons is crucial in helping us identify those players with the capability and mentality to play international rugby.
"With two rearranged Guinness Premiership fixtures (Gloucester Rugby v London Irish and Harlequins v Northampton Saints) scheduled for the day after, the match against Portugal will see us field a young England side, giving us a good opportunity to see as many young and talented players as possible.
"Sale Sharks have done a great job in attracting Friday night crowds. I've been there on several occasions and always enjoy the excellent atmosphere.
"The Saxons team last played there in May 2007 when they opened their Barclays Churchill Cup campaign with a 51-3 victory over the USA. This match is another great opportunity for rugby fans in the north to enjoy representative rugby."
Excepting sevens, the two nations have never played each other at senior level. Portugal are ranked No 23 in the world and are among six European countries hoping to fill the two automatic Rugby World Cup 2011 places, with the highest placed nation joining England in Pool B.
With four crucial matches in the three months that follow, the first against Russia on February 7, the fixture against England's young guns is an important part of Portugal's preparations. Having qualified for the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 2007, when they beat Uruguay over two legs in the repecharge match, they will be hoping to make it to their second RWC.
Said Nathan Bombrys, Sale Sharks Commercial Director, "We are delighted to bring another senior international rugby match back to the North West.
"To have the England Saxons play here in Stockport for the second time in less than two years if fantastic news for Sharks' supporters across the region. We look forward to welcoming Portugal for their first ever 15-a-side, senior international match in England. Their passionate and determined style of play that was one of the highlights of the last Rugby World Cup. We look forward to another excellent Friday night of rugby at Edgeley Park."
Tickets for England Saxons match against Portugal at Edgeley Park on January 30 are available from www.salesharks.com and start from just �5 for adults.
The 32-man England Saxons Elite Player Squad will be announced alongside the Senior EPS on January 14, 2009.
For more information on England Saxons go to www.rfu.com/saxons or contact England Saxons Media Manager Nicki Drinkwater on 020 8831 6626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors
England Saxons fixtures 2009
England Saxons v Portugal, Edgeley Park, Sale, Friday January 30, kick off 8pm (live on Sky Sports 1)
Ireland A v England Saxons, Donnybrook, Dublin, Friday February 6, kick off 7.30pm
Barclays Churchill Cup
Dates and venues still to be confirmed.