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Injury-hit Strettle’s back with a wing and a prayer

DAVID STRETTLE has vowed to take his England chance with both hands this summer – to end two years of injury hell.

The 26-year-old wing has been rewarded for his blistering end-of-season form for Harlequins with a place in the starting XV to take on the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

Now, he aims to turn back the clock and finally kickstart his international career, staking a claim for the No11 shirt, which barring injury, would surely have been in his possession long ago.

Since making his debut in the 2007 Six Nations, Strettle has made just six international appearances, his progress dogged by a string of injuries. But now with a full season under his belt at The Stoop, super-quick Strettle is looking to make his injury hell a thing of the past.

“All players have injuries at some point in their career, the problem I’ve had is that I’ve picked them up at just the wrong time,” he told City.A.M.

“First, it was two days before the [2007] World Cup, then just at the start of the [2008] Six Nations and then again before the Autumn internationals. It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve played a full season now with Harlequins and I really felt I got my sharpness back, especially towards the end of the season.”

Strettle also credits his recall to the new law changes, which helped make the Premiership more expansive towards the latter half of the campaign.“The changes encouraged running rugby and it really gave guys like me the chance to show what we could do,” he added.

Strettle takes his place in a new-look England XV, captained by Harlequins team-mate Nick Easter, and featuring three uncapped players, Bath centre Shontayne Hape, Newcastle prop Jon Goulding and Gloucester lock Dave Attwood.

Fly-half Charlie Hodgson is also included in a team which doesn’t feature any Leicester or Saracens stars due to the Premiership final being held 24 hours earlier.

Indeed, Strettle is hoping to be in attendance at Twickenham on Saturday to watch his new Saracens team-mates in action, having made the switch across the capital after four years at Harlequins.

First though, Strettle’s focus is solely on the forthcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand with the Red Rose, and the chance to finally make his name on the international stage.

Indeed, Strettle believes Martin Johnson’s 44-man party can spring a surprise in the two Tests against the Wallabies. “We have a very talented squad of players and if we play to our potential then I think we can give the Australians a good game,” he added.

“It’s great to be able to test ourselves against the best. As for personal aims, I just want to do myself justice on the field and, of course, stay injury-free.”

Tickets for the MasterCard Trophy England v Barbarians fixture on Sunday May 30 (kick off 5pm) are available priced £25 for adults and £10 for Under 16s via www.rfu.com/tickets.

ENGLAND | STARTING XV TO PLAY BARBARIANS

15 Ben Foden (Northampton); 14 Mark Cueto (Sale), 13 Mike Tindall (Gloucester), 12 Shontayne Hape (Bath), 11 David Strettle (Harlequins); 10 Charlie Hodgson (Sale), 9 Danny Care (Harlequins); 1 Jon Golding (Newcastle), 2 Steve Thompson (Brive), 3 Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester), 4 Dave Attwood (Gloucester), 5 Tom Palmer, 6 James Haskell (both Stade Francais), 7 Steffon Armitage (London Irish), 8 Nick Easter (capt, Harlequins).

Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath), Tim Payne, Dan Ward-Smith, Joe Worsley, Joe Simpson (all Wasps), Olly Barkley (Bath), Mathew Tait (Sale).