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Crane earns first start for Saxons

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Jordan Crane will make his debut for England Saxons against Italy A at Exeter on Friday evening. The 20-year-old No.8 is in his first season with Leicester Tigers following a move from Leeds Tykes and has made a dozen appearances for the club this term.

The Saxons side will be captained by Newcastle centre Jamie Noon who will form an experienced midfield with World Cup winner Mike Catt after the pair were released from Brian Ashton's senior squad.

Noon said: "To lead your country at any level is a huge honour. I've captained Newcastle before but this is a step up for me. We have a hugely talented squad and there is a very positive atmosphere around the camp. Everyone is looking forward to Friday night. There are a number of guys in the team who are capable of playing at senior level. But it's not about individuals, it's about playing as a team and putting in a great all-round performance and hopefully that will enhance our cause."

Gloucester's James Simpson-Daniel was withdrawn from consideration after a hamstring injury forced him out of training yesterday.

Saxons coach Jim Mallinder said: "Our philosophy is to select a side capable of winning, but also to give an opportunity to players that we think are capable of playing at the next level. Brian Ashton and the other England coaches are looking for strength in depth and part of the role of England Saxons is to help ensure that players are ready when Brian needs them.

"In terms of style, to a certain extent we will mirror the senior team. We talk a lot about being creative and expansive but first and foremost we need to get the basics right. After that it's about developing players who can do things with the ball when we get it."

The match, which kicks off at 8pm on Friday at Sandy Park Stadium, home of Exeter Chiefs, will be live on Sky Sports.

England Saxons team (to play Italy A, Friday)

15 Olly Morgan (Gloucester Rugby)
14 David Strettle (NEC Harlequins)
13 Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons, captain)
12 Mike Catt (London Irish)
11 Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby)
10 Shane Geraghty (London Irish)
9 Shaun Perry (Bristol Rugby)
1 Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)
2 Andy Titterrell (Sale Sharks)
3 Stuart Turner (Sale Sharks)
4 Dean Schofield (Sale Sharks)
5 Alex Brown (Gloucester Rugby)
6 James Haskell (London Wasps)
7 Tom Rees (London Wasps)
8 Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)


16 Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
17 Tom Mercey (Saracens)
18 Chris Jones (Sale Sharks)
19 Nick Easter (NEC Harlequins)
20 Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks)
21 Olly Barkley (Bath Rugby)
22 Mike Brown (NEC Harlequins)