- Saxons Head Coach Jon Callard outlines reasons behind squad selections
- Exciting blend of talent and experience
Stuart Lancaster described it as the most important Saxons selection for some time and Head Coach Jon Callard believes his squad possesses the necessary blend of big-game experience and exciting young talent.
The 32-man squad named in Leeds needs to meet two converse aims: keeping high-quality individuals ready to play Test matches when required and also exposing the brightest young stars to the England way of doing things to aid accession to the Senior team.
Callard takes his England Saxons to face the O2 Irish Wolfhounds in Galway on Friday, January 25 and is fired by the balance he has to choose from for his travelling party.
“I like to describe it as we’ve got a lot of conduits to protect the electricity,” said the former England fly half. “It’s very much driven by Stuart Lancaster and it’s exciting in make up.
“It’s up to us now as coaches to not be too predetermined or too dictatorial, it’s simply this is the squad, this is the basic structure, you’ve got to go out and perform.
“These are the players Stuart, Graham [Rowntree], Andy [Farrell] and Mike [Catt] want to see, the players they think can step up to the next level. There needs to be a stepping stone between club and the senior side and this is the perfect environment.”
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Style and substance
A look at the five Saxons locks provides a neat summary of the experienced insulation Callard hopes to provide for lightning trio Elliot Daly, Christian Wade and Kyle Eastmond, while at the same time demonstrating their enduring quality.
Tom Palmer has 43 Test caps, the third highest in the England set-up; Mouritz Botha has played in ten of England’s last 12 Tests ; Louis Deacon has been captaining Leicester Tigers this season, a club for whom he has made 157 Premiership appearances; and George Robson and Graham Kitchener toured South Africa with England this summer, Robson captaining the midweek side.
All to play for
Callard wants to impress on all the players the future consequences of their actions with the Saxons this winter, given Stuart Lancaster will take an extended group to Argentina for the four-game tour in June, which takes place at the same time as the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.
“Prove to Stuart Lancaster that he is right that you’re still in this squad, you could’ve been discarded, but you’re not. They’re just one phone call away, not just from playing for England but it could be the Lions in the summer.
“There are a lot of seats available on planes this summer going in different directions and I want to make sure the players know the consequences of their actions in the two Saxons games.”
Callard has been impressed by the recent performances of the squad's young additions.
“Daly and Wade are doing a fantastic job at Wasps, credit to Dai Young for giving them the freedom to play and Eastmond and Tomkins have that X-factor about them.
“I’m also really excited about what Matt Kvesic can do. I watched him play against Leicester at the weekend and I thought it was a real, genuine openside performance.
“It wasn’t just his ball carrying and tackling abilities but his decision making around the ruck, when to go in to steal, when to be a nuisance, was McCaw-like and I want to see that at Saxons level.”