January 31st, 2008
England and Bath player Nick Abendanon is hoping familiarity will be the key to success when the Saxons take on Ireland A at Welford Road tomorrow (Friday), kick-off 745pm.
Although the Saxons' first training session was only on Monday the full-back, who has two caps for England, is playing alongside several players that he has already had international experience with, be it through England Sevens, Under 21s and Under 19s rugby.
"I am delighted to be in this 22," said Abendanon. "We have definitely got a strong, young side here that I think can cause a bit of damage.
"The great thing about this team is that so many of us have played together before, across the board for England. I can honestly say that I know bits and pieces about each and every player in this 22 and that is something quite unusual. It is also the key to performing well when you have limited training time together. The consistency and familiarity between us all will be a massive help on Friday and I think that will put us in a strong position."
Certainly the Saxons will need that advantage when they take on an experienced Ireland A outfit. The visitors have 150 caps between them, including the likes of Shane Horgan and Alan Quinlan.
Abendanon added: "There's no doubt that this is going to be a very tough fixture. Ireland has got a very tight pack and will probably do well if the weather conditions are bad. I think that is where their strength lies because they are strong and experienced.
"For us, we want to be able to chuck the ball around and if we get the opportunity to do that then I think we can score some good points. Our strength is in our 10, 12 and 13 and we have got a very quick back three so let's hope the conditions allow us to do that."
The match is of course also a chance for the young Bath player to remind the England selectors what he can do. After being drafted into the England squad that toured South Africa last year Abendanon is keen to show he has the potential to build on his two England caps.
"Like any other player I am delighted to be running out for the Saxons but my aspirations are to play for the senior team and this is a great opportunity for me to show what I can do," added Abendanon. "I'm obviously eager to build on the caps I have and maybe if the team and myself can impress against Ireland then that can help me take my rugby career to the next level."
England Saxons team to play Ireland A
Friday 1 February 2008, Welford Road (7.45pm)
15. Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby)*
14. Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers)*
13. Ollie Smith (Leicester Tigers, vice captain)*
12. Shane Geraghty (London Irish)*
11. Delon Armitage (London Irish)
10. Ryan Lamb (Gloucester Rugby)
9. Lee Dickson (Newcastle Falcons)
1. Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)
2. David Paice (London Irish)
3. Jason Hobson (Bristol Rugby)
4. Tom Palmer (London Wasps)*
5. Nick Kennedy (London Irish)
6. Phil Dowson (Newcastle Falcons)
7. Ben Woods (Newcastle Falcons)
8. Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers, captain)
16. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
17. David Wilson (Newcastle Falcons)
18. George Skivington (London Wasps)
19. Will Skinner (Harlequins)
20. James Grindal (Newcastle Falcons)
21. Anthony Allen (Gloucester Rugby)*
22. Mike Brown (Harlequins)*
* Denotes capped players
Full player and management profiles and headshots are available from www.rfu.com/profiles. For further information on fixtures and previous results please go to www.rfu.com/saxons.