ROOKIE Harlequins prop Joe Marler has been rewarded for his impressive start to the season with a maiden senior England call-up for next week’s first autumn international against New Zealand.
Marler, 20, only made his Quins debut in April but has proven a central figure in their start to the current campaign and has been drafted in by England manager Martin Johnson as injury cover for Bath’s David Wilson.
The former England Under-18 captain caught the eye at the Under-20 World Cup in Argentina earlier this year where he helped the side reach the semi-finals, and was one of five players to be added to the senior squad yesterday.
Saracens centre Brad Barritt was called up as cover for Wasps’ Riki Flutey, who has a calf strain, while Northampton flanker Tom Wood was named as cover for Leeds Carnegie’s Hendre Fourie, who has bruised ribs.
Wasps forward Dan Ward-Smith was summoned to England’s Bagshot headquarters as a potential replacement for his club colleague Simon Shaw, who is also nursing a calf problem.
Finally, Johnson last night recruited Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson to cover for Jonny Wilkinson, after the veteran No10 complained of a shoulder problem. Toulon star Wilkinson is set to undergo a scan today but fresh doubts over his fitness will be a major worry to the England boss. Leicester’s Toby Flood, his rival for the No10 jersey, is still fighting to regain full fitness after a knee injury.
Wilson, who has a sore back, Flutey, Fourie and Shaw remain with the squad while they undergo further assessment and treatment.
Marler’s call-up caps a remarkably rapid ascent to the top of the game. The East Sussex-born youngster was playing on loan at Esher just a few months ago.
AUTUMN CAMPAIGN | ENGLAND
v New Zealand, Saturday 6 November
v Australia, Saturday 13 November
v Samoa, Saturday 20 November
v South Africa, Saturday 27 November