England Saxons v Ireland Wolfhounds preview
Last Updated: 24/01/14 10:24pm
Calum Clark: Northampton Saints flanker rebuilding his career after long ban
Calum Clark hopes the England Saxons captaincy can help complete his two-year redemption from breaking Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins' arm.
The Northampton flanker was banned for an eventual 32 weeks for his crude assault on front-rower Hawkins when he lost his temper in the 2012 LV=Cup final, which Leicester won 26-14, but has since worked hard to rebuild his career.
Clark has forced his way into England's second-string squad, and will captain the Saxons against Ireland Wolfhounds in Gloucester on Saturday.
"This means a lot to me, and it's something I'm really proud of, to be given the responsibility, and hopefully go out there and do us proud at the weekend," said Clark.
"I've had a few setbacks but I would like to think I've dealt with them in the right way, learnt a few tough lessons and made the decision to be better for it rather than going the other way.
"It's been a bit of a rollercoaster from the England side of things, and to be given this opportunity means a lot.
"The ban was almost two years ago now. It was at a point where I could have gone one of two ways: I could have pointed fingers and blamed other people, which I probably did for a little while. Or you can realise it's a tough lesson, learn what you can from it.
"I'd like to think I've taken the second route, eventually. It's great to be selected in the position I'm in and to be given that chance to continue on that path to doing something about it.
"Everyone in life deals with setbacks, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can come up, stand up and take responsibility for your failures, your mistakes or your errors of judgement, and you can do something about it and do what you can to ensure it doesn't happen again.
"I haven't been in trouble since I've been back. I work really hard at looking in the mirror, dealing with the things that have happened."
Clark will be one of seven players making their Saxons debuts.
Bath wing Anthony Watson, Exeter centre Sam Hill, Saints prop Alex Waller, Harlequins forwards Charlie Matthews and Luke Wallace and Chiefs No 8 Dave Ewers will also be making their first appearances at this level.
Watson was named in England's Six Nations squad earlier this month, but the 19-year-old has been given clearance to play for the Saxons due to his lack of senior international experience.
Rhys Ruddock, son of former Wales coach and current Ireland U20s boss Mike Ruddock, will lead the Wolfhounds.
Ruddock, who won a senior cap on the 2010 summer tour of Australia, will start alongside Leinster team-mate Richardt Strauss just three months after the hooker underwent heart surgery.
Fit-again Ulster wing Craig Gilroy also starts, while Munster wing Simon Zebo is among the replacements as he as he steps up his return from a long-term foot injury.
Connacht's Kieran Marmion is also on the bench after he escaped suspension following his citing in the Heineken Cup defeat to Saracens last weekend, while Leinster tighthead Martin Moore starts in the front row, with former Gloucester lock Dan Tuohy making a return to his old stomping ground.
Cardiff Blues' Munster-bound number eight Robin Copeland has a chance to impress, while Isaac Boss and Ian Madigan form an experienced half-back duo.
England Saxons: 15 Daly, 14 Watson, 13 Hopper, 12 Hill, 11 Sharples, 10 Burns, 9 Simpson; 1 Waller, 2 George, 3 Mercey, 4 Matthews, 5 Kruis, 6 Clark, 7 Wallace, 8 Ewers
Replacements: 16 Ward, 17 Catt, 18 Wilson, 19 Stooke, 20 Dickinson, 21 Lewis, 22 Slade, 23 Miller
Ireland Wolfhounds: 15 Jones, 14 McFadden, 13 Henshaw, 12 Cave, 11 Gilroy, 10 Madigan, 9 Boss; 1 Kilcoyne, 2 Herring, 3 Moore, 4 Henderson, 5 Tuohy, 6 Ruddock, 7 O'Donnell, 8 Copeland
Replacements: 16 Strauss, 17 McGrath, 18 Archer, 19 Diack, 20 Murphy, 21 Marmion, 22 Keatley, 23 Zebo