ED SLATER will make his debut for England Saxons against a strong Scotland A side at Galashiels on Friday night.
The Leicester lock comes in for Matt Garvey in one of eight changes made by Jon Callard to the side that beat Ireland Wolfhounds 23-17 last weekend.
Gloucester speedster Jonny May makes his much-anticipated first start on the wing while Nick Abendanon is at full-back and Ryan Lamb replaces Freddie Burns at fly-half. London Wasps centre Dominic Waldouck also comes into the starting line-up after Jonathan Joseph, who had been due to make his Saxons debut, was ruled out with a groin injury.
In the pack, Exeter back-rower Tom Johnson takes over the No 8 shirt from Thomas Waldrom, Chris Brooker replaces his Harlequins team-mate Joe Gray at hooker and Gloucester prop Nick Wood comes in for Matt Mullan.
Callard knows that the Saxons need to add more finesse to an attacking game plan that stuttered last time out.
“We need to back up that performance against the Wolfhounds by getting it right away from home against Scotland this week,” said coach Callard.
“The endeavour and energy we showed last week at Exeter was first class, but not everything was absolutely spot on and we need to improve our accuracy and execution.”
Scotland A have picked a strong line-up themselves, with Gloucester scrum-half Rory Lawson captaining the side against some of his clubmates.
His half-back partner is Duncan Weir, who has impressed for Glasgow this season, particularly with his metronomic boot. His exciting Warriors team-mate Stuart Hogg starts at full-back while Simon Danielli and Alex Grove add experience in the threequarters.
Up front, Glasgow provide the whole of the tight five – Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, Rob Harley and Tom Ryder – and will be hoping that cohesion allows them to cause England problems in the scrum after the Saxons pack dominated the Irish in that area of the game last weekend.
“The Saxons showed against Ireland Wolfhounds last Saturday that they’ve got real ability across their side, so we know we need to deliver in every facet of our performance,” said Scotland A coach Michael Bradley.
“As a coaching team, we’re happy with the skill-set and the balance of the side we’ll have running out come Friday. It’s a real opportunity for a good number of guys to stick their hand up and show they’re worthy of selection during the RBS 6 Nations. The most effective way for them to do that is to contribute fully to a winning performance against the Saxons.”
ENGLAND SAXONS v SCOTLAND A, GALASHIELS, FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY, KICK-OFF 7.30pm
England Saxons: Nick Abendanon; Ugo Monye, Dominic Waldouck, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonny May; Ryan Lamb, Ben Spencer; Nick Wood, Chris Brooker, Paul Doran-Jones, Ed Slater, George Robson, James Gaskell (captain), Andy Saull, Tom Johnson.
Replacements: Joe Gray, Rupert Harden, Kearnan Myall, David Seymour, Paul Hodgson, Freddie Burns, Miles Benjamin.
Scotland A: Stuart Hogg; Tom Brown, Alex Grove, Matt Scott, Simon Danielli; Duncan Weir, Rory Lawson (captain); Jon Welsh, Dougie Hall, Ed Kalman, Rob Harley, Tom Ryder, Stuart McInally, Chris Fusaro, Richie Vernon.
Replacements: Pat MacArthur, Ryan Grant, Ryan Wilson, Roddy Grant, Henry Pyrgos, Phil Godman, Peter Murchie.