No8 Crane earned a call-up after Leicester’s Heineken Cup match against Toulouse and resumes a Saxons career which stretches back to the 2006/07 season.
“The call was pretty unexpected, it was a bit of a surprise,” said Crane.
“Jon Callard [Saxons head coach] spoke to me about being captain and it’s nice to have the opportunity to carry on where I left off. It's an honour to captain the team.
“There are some fresh faces around – I feel old and I’m only 26. But there are some familiar faces like Tom Biggs and Jordan Turner-Hall who I’ve known through the age-groups. It’s good to catch up with all the guys and we’re looking forward to seeing the new talent in the team too.
“I think the last month or so things have gone well with Tigers and we’re just trying to build on that and push on.”
Tigers prop Kieran Brookes has been added to the Saxons bench for tonight’s match against Irish Wolfhounds in Athlone.
He takes over after a knee injury ruled out Gloucester prop Shaun Knight.
Club colleagues Graham Kitchener and George Ford join skipper Crane in the starting line-up, while Brookes joins Ed Slater among the replacements.
15 Elliot Daly (London Wasps)
14 Christian Wade (London Wasps)
13 Joel Tomkins (Saracens)
12 Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins)
11 Tom Biggs (Bath Rugby)
10 George Ford (Leicester Tigers)
9 Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens)
1 Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)
2 Joe Gray (Harlequins)
3 Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints)
4 Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers)
5 George Robson (Harlequins)
6 George Kruis (Saracens)
7 Will Fraser (Saracens)
8 Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers) (c)
16 Rob Buchanan (Harlequins)
17 Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors)
18 Kieran Brookes (Leicester Tigers)
19 Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
20 Jamie Gibson (London Irish)
21 Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
22 George Lowe (Harlequins)
23 Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby)