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Hipkiss calm ahead of England bow

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With his England debut on the horizon, Tigers centre Dan Hipkiss spoke to the RFU website...

Dan Hipkiss could be forgiven for thinking that being in a group called 'Slo Progress' was suitably prophetic when it comes to his England career. At 25, Hipkiss and his fellow musical Tigers Tigers Sam Vesty and Ollie Smith are not so much a boy band as a mid-20s medley with their rock covers portfolio.

And while rookies like David Strettle have been racking up the caps, Hipkiss has cut his teeth and honed his tree trunk thighs in the Guinness Premiership with two outstanding seasons for Leicester propelling him into Rugby World Cup contention. But Hipkiss, who makes his England debut against Wales in Saturday's Investec Challenge match at Twickenham, is not complaining, especially after suffering a career-threatening injury to his left knee (torn posterior cruciate and lateral ligament) as a 17-year-old that kept him out of rugby for a year.

"It's obviously a very proud time, especially for the people who have helped me along the way," said Hipkiss."There is always an aspiration to be involved with the England team but I haven't thought too much beyond our next training session.

"There is a certain amount of pressure because there is only a limited amount of time to the World Cup. But I don't think I'm foolish enough to think too long term. I've just been going from training session to training session to try and improve with each one.  If you look too far ahead you can get caught out."

Hipkiss, whose first game for England Under-16s was at Twickenham almost a decade ago, has had a flood of good luck messages including one from World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson.

"Johnno didn't dwell on it too much - he said 'just do what you have been doing for Leicester'," he said.

That includes appearing three times at Twickenham this season, not least a man-of-the-match performance against the Ospreys in the EDF Energy Cup final followed by solid displays in the Guinness Premiership and the Heineken Cup finals.

With Mike Catt, Mathew Tait, Jamie Noon, Toby Flood, Mike Tindall and Olly Barkley also waiting in the wings, Head Coach Brian Ashton has a wealth of choice at centre but is looking forward to seeing Hipkiss in international action alongside Andy Farrell.

"I have never worked with Dan before but he has confirmed in training what I saw in the back half of the season," said Ashton. "Danny impressed me in Leicester's big games and would certainly have come to South Africa with us but for club commitments in Europe and the Guinness Premiership play-offs. He thoroughly deserves his chance."

Hipkiss' Leicester captain Martin Corry said: "He has been brilliant for us and probably been the most consistent performer over the last two years. He is a very powerful runner and has the ability to stay on his feet. But the things he doesn't get remembered for are his sleight of hand and other touches."