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Premiership Rugby

Centre Abbott to start against Maori

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Abbott's selection is just reward after a good season for London Wasps, during their Zurich Premiership campaign this season. They were crowned the new Premiership champions following their stunning 39-3 victory over Gloucester in the Final at Twickenham last week.

It all caps a fantastic last two weeks for the 25-year-old former Western Province and Stormers centre.

"The win against Gloucester in the Zurich Premiership Final last weekend, the tour call up and now the chance to play the New Zealand Maori on Monday have provided me some great opportunities," he said.

"I'm looking forward to the game which will be a huge challenge for me and the squad but it's one we're all looking forward to."

The other newcomers include Abbott's Wasps team-mate Paul Volley, who is on the bench, and Gloucester loose forward Andy Hazel.

Although the team is essentially an England midweek side, coach Clive Woodward has still included a number of experienced campaigners with veteran prop Phil Vickery chosen to captain the side.

The 27-year-old Vickery, who has already won 30 caps for England, said that he was under no illusions as to the challenge faced by his team, who are up against a Maori side fresh from an emphatic 47-12 thrashing over Tonga.

The England captain said he was also relishing the prospect of going up against his opposite number, All Black Greg Feek: "He is an outstanding loosehead, who played his part in the Crusaders reaching the Super 12 Final and I'm looking forward to playing against him on Monday."

Clive Woodward, who has made no bones about how intent he is on winning against the All Blacks and the Wallabies, reiterated how important the midweek game was for his side.

"It's a good opportunity for all the England players taking part to push their international credentials against a very tough side and we're all treating the game as a full on test match," he said.

The England team: 15 Iain Balshaw, 14 Dan Luger, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Stuart Abbott, 11 James Simpson-Daniel, 10 Paul Grayson, 9 Kyran Bracken, 8 Joe Worsley, 7 Andy Hazell, 6 Martin Corry, 5 Steve Borthwick, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Phil Vickery (captain), 2 Dorian West, 1 Trevor Woodman.Replacements: 16 Mark Regan, 17 Mike Worsley, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Paul Volley, 20 Andy Gomarsall, 21 Alex King, 22 Ben Johnston.

Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)


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