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Varndell relishes Saxons Welford Road challenge

31 January 2008

Leicester Tigers winger Tom Varndell has described playing for England Saxons at Welford Road as the next best thing as running out at Twickenham.
 
Varndell has been named in the Saxons starting XV for tomorrow's game against Ireland  A at his home club ground (7.45pm) which will be the first time that he has played in England colours at Welford Road.
 
"Apart from playing for England at Twickenham, running out in an England team at Welford Road has got to be the next best thing," Varndell said.
 
"I'm over the moon about it and I'm really looking forward to the game.
 
"I've never played for England at Leicester before so it will be a special moment, not just for me but for Jordan Crane and Ollie Smith as well.
 
"We always get fantastic support at Welford Road for Leicester games and hopefully there will be another full house there on Friday to support the Saxons."
 
Leicester number eight Crane has been appointed captain of the Saxons side with centre Smith as vice-captain.
 
There will be a familiar face in the Ireland side in the shape of Leicester winger Johne Murphy who, like Varndell, has been in sparking form this season.
 
"We know each other so it will be a bit strange playing against Johne," Varndell said.
 
"We know how each other play and we are used to opposing each other from some of our training sessions with Leicester.
 
"We've not really spoken about the Saxons game, we been too busy focusing on our recent games with Leicester for that.
 
"But I'm sure that there will be no love lost between us on the pitch though we will be good friends off it.
 
"My job on Friday is to be part of a winning side."
 
The Saxons have prepared for tomorrow's game with a week of training at Loughborough University under their new head coach Steve Bates and his assistants Simon Hardy and former England and Leicester prop Graham Rowntree.
 
"The training has been good," Varndell said. "It's really been a case of putting some structures in place and learning a bit about each other."
 
The England Saxons v Ireland A match will be preceded by a presentation to Midlands clubs on a new Club and Coach Award scheme, a joint initiative between the RFU and Sport England.
 
Significant funding has been secured for three years to develop the skills of coaches working in the Under-13 to Under-16 age groups in the Midlands East region and to support players and coaches withing the Schools of Rugby in the region.
 
Schools of Rugby sit between Regional Academies and above the club and school structures and have been set up to support potentially talented rugby players and help them develop their skills.
 
The presentation will be made by Jeff Mapp, Regional Rugby Development Manager for Midlands East, at 6.30pm.