England call for Sarries star Stevens

SARACENS prop Matt Stevens has been handed the chance to compete for a place in Martin Johnson’s World Cup squad after he was named in the England Saxons’ party for the upcoming Churchill Cup.

The South African-born star missed Sunday’s 38-32 defeat by the Barbarians due to his involvement in the Premiership final win over Leicester 24 hours earlier, but has been included in the 24-man group.

It is the first time he has featured in an England squad since completing his two-year ban for cocaine use. The 28-year-old won the last of his 32 caps in November 2008.

Stevens is joined in the squad by his club team-mate, lock Mouritz Botha, who was also born in South Africa. Botha was playing for Bedford until as recently as 2009 and is selected following a fine season for the Premiership champions.

The Saxons have picked their youngest ever squad with an average age of 23 for their defence of the Churchill Cup, which begins against the USA at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.

Henry Trinder, Charlie Sharples, Rory Clegg, Joe Gray, Kieran Brookes, Billy Twelvetrees, Jamie Gibson and James Gaskell are 22 or younger and will make their tournament debuts.