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Crane and Blaze start for Saxons

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Tigers' Jordan Crane and summer signing Richard Blaze have been named in the starting XV for England Saxons' opening Churchill Cup fixture against the USA at Edgeley Park this Friday, May 18 (live on Sky Sports 3, kick-off 7.45pm).

Crane starts at No.8, while Blaze, who will join Tigers from Worcester Warriors ahead of next season, is included in the second row alongside Jim Evans of NEC Harlequins.

London Irish prop Neal Hatley has been chosen as captain. Hatley, who will become the Exiles' academy manager next season, has been given the task of leading a squad light on international experience but brimming with youthful talent and Premiership experience, by coaches Jim Mallinder and Rugby World Cup winner, Dorian West.

While the uncapped Hatley, an inaugural 2003 Barclays Churchill Cup winner, provides the experience up front, the backline features two capped players in London Irish's Shane Geraghty, who lines up at inside centre, and Dan Scarbrough of Saracens, who will wear the number 15 shirt.  The match also provides an opportunity for Sale Sharks' scrum half Richard Wigglesworth to take the pitch in front of his home crowd.

"Despite our youth and lack of international experience, this is a side with a great deal of Guinness Premiership experience," said England Saxons coach Jim Mallinder. 

"Like us, all the players are excited by the challenge of coming together to take on an experienced side like the USA. They are a tough team who have already qualified for the Rugby World Cup in September.

"We've chosen Neal to lead the team.  He is vastly experienced and, following another very successful season at London Irish, is well respected by all the squad. His experience and leadership will be crucial to us on the pitch."

England Saxons team to play USA (Friday May 18, kick-off 7.45pm, Edgeley Park)

15 Delon Armitage (London Irish)
14 Dan Scarbrough (Saracens)
13 Kevin Sorrell (Saracens)
12 Shane Geraghty (London Irish)
11 Topsy Ojo (London Irish)
10 Ryan Lamb (Gloucester 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 - Leicester Tigers as of 2007/08)
5 Jim Evans (NEC Harlequins)
6 Phil Dowson (Newcastle Falcons)
7 Will Skinner (NEC Harlequins)
8 Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)

Replacements from

Chris Brooker (NEC Harlequins from 1 July 2007)
Jack Forster (Gloucester Rugby)
Nick Kennedy (London Irish)
Tom Mercey (Saracens)
Kieran Roche (London Irish)
David Seymour (Saracens)
Matt Thompson (Newcastle Falcons)
Ben Woods (Newcastle Falcons)
Lee Dickson (Newcastle Falcons)
Paul Diggin (Northampton Saints)
Adrian Jarvis (NEC Harlequins)
Nils Mordt (London Irish)