Christian Lewis-Pratt in training with England

Christian Lewis-Pratt will make his first international appearance and Simon Hunt returns to the squad as England prepare to defend their Dubai Sevens title.

The two changes to the 12-man group see debutant Lewis-Pratt, 20, take over from the injured John Brake (broken finger) while Hunt, 30, replaces Chris Brightwell.

England go into the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series looking to improve on their performance at the Gold Coast Sevens, when they were beaten by New Zealand at the quarter final stage and picked up 10 series points.

The Dubai tournament kicks off tomorrow with England facing Zimbabwe (07.54 GMT), Kenya (11.38) and France (15.52) in Pool B. The potential quarter final opponents on Saturday are South Africa or New Zealand.

Lewis-Pratt signed full-time with England Sevens from Leeds Carnegie in June and makes his debut after recovering from a pre-season ankle injury.

Head coach Ben Ryan said: “Christian deserves his chance and while he won’t have the fitness of the other lads due to lack of matches we’ll slowly ease him into things. It’s good to have him back. He’s a great kicker, good distributor, he’s a threat and he tackles well so I’m sure he’ll enjoy his first tournament.”

Hunt returns to the ground where he scored key tries in last year’s triumph, including a last-play winner against Fiji on the first evening and one within moments of taking the field as a replacement in the final. His return gives England an experienced edge – their 12-man squad includes eight of those who lifted the title after that 29-21 win against Samoa.

Ryan added: “It was a tough call but he can play in the forwards or the backs and he’s a good impact player. He’s fresh, as is Christian, so there’s a bit of energy to add to the group.

“It’s good to have his experience there and that boosts the number of players who have won tournaments for England which is important in a high pressure tournament like Dubai. If they can keep their heads this weekend there’s no reason we can’t do very well.”

England Squad:
Greg Barden (captain),
Chris Cracknell,
Isoa Damudamu (British Army),
Simon Hunt,
Christian Lewis-Pratt,
Dan Norton,
Tom Powell,
James Rodwell,
Nick Royle,
Mathew Turner,
Rob Vickerman,
Marcus Watson (Saracens)

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