ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster insists Calum Clark has learned from his 32-week ban for breaking an opponent’s elbow, after handing the Northampton forward a Six Nations call-up.
Uncapped Clark, who can play in the second row and back row, scuppered his hopes of a Test debut at last year’s championship when he hyper-extended Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins’ arm in March and was banned until November.
But the 23-year-old’s successful Saints comeback has earned him a place in England’s reshuffled 33-man elite squad, and Lancaster believes Clark has emerged from his suspension a changed man.
“He has had a tough lesson to learn and he has learned it. He has been harnessing the competitive nature he has got, which you want in players to win games, but he is channelling that in the right way,” said Lancaster, who worked with a young Clark at Leeds.
“I have coached him since he was 14. I know what he can offer. In addition to his desire to win, his versatility in the second row is an option for us. He is incredibly athletic and very good in the contact areas.”
Clark’s call-up means Saracens’ Mouritz Botha is relegated to the Saxons squad, while the other uncapped player in Lancaster’s squad is Gloucester centre Billy Twelvetrees.
Club colleague Freddie Burns is one of four men formally promoted to elite level – along with Wasps’ Joe Launchbury, Sarries’ Mako Vunipola and Leicester’s Tom Youngs – but faces stiff competition at fly-half.
“They are coming into very competitive positions,” said Lancaster. “We have Toby Flood and Owen Farrell at 10, who have played well for us. Billy comes in against Brad Barritt, who has been exceptional in the autumn and for Saracens.”
Sarries wing David Strettle has replaced Charlie Sharples, but Lancaster warned him not to expect to oust Harlequins’ Mike Brown. He added: “David has moved to the left at Saracens and his form has been outstanding but Mike Brown was fantastic there against the All Blacks.”
ENGLAND SIX NATIONS SQUAD
C Clark (Northampton), A Corbisiero (London Irish), D Cole (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Wasps), T Johnson (Exeter), J Launchbury (Wasps), C Lawes (Northampton), J Marler (Harlequins), B Morgan (Gloucester), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), M Vunipola (Saracens), T Waldrom (Leicester), D Wilson (Bath), T Wood (Northampton), T Youngs (Leicester)
C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins), F Burns (Gloucester), D Care (Harlequins), L Dickson (Northampton), O Farrell (Saracens), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton), A Goode (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), D Strettle (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Twelvetrees (Gloucester), B Youngs (Leicester)