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Premiership Rugby

Woodward names side to face NZ Baa-baas

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Richard Hill will captain the side from the back row, Jason Robinson and Ben Cohen start at full-back and wing, while Trevor Woodman and Steve Thompson line up in the front row.

The non-cap match will also see a fresh new face pack down alongside Thompson and Woodward – Bath boy Stevens.

The South African-born Stevens is a member of England's national academy under the guidance of Brian Ashton and an Under-21 international who has featured several times for Bath this season, making two starts.

Stevens, 21, will replace the injured Phil Vickery at tighthead prop. Vickery would have captained England on Saturday, but he has been ruled out by a rib injury.

There is also a welcome return to England colours for Charlie Hodgson who missed England's adventure Down Under due to injury. The Sale Sharks fly-half starts from the bench.

Head coach Clive Woodward insists the road to France 2007 starts here.

"This game is an opportunity for me to move things forward very quickly," said Woodward.

"We've got twelve of the World Cup squad in the starting XV and I was very keen to prioritise those who weren't in the 22 for the final. Of the others, Simpson-Daniel and Ollie Smith are ready now to play for England.

"The game's a complete sell-out, it's on the BBC and I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to move things forward in the Six Nations. We're very excited about Matt Stevens. We've been getting good reports from all the coaching staff. It's a huge opportunity for him and for Simpson-Daniel and Ollie Smith to get right back in there."

Woodward could only choose a maximum of three players from each Zurich Premiership club and International Rugby Board regulations prevent him from fielding a full-strength side for a non-cap international.

But he believes he has assembled a strong side – strong enough, he claimed, to win the World Cup final.

"I don't think the supporters have been 'turned over'," said Woodward.

"Clearly if they're England supporters, we've got six of the final squad and six of the nine who weren't in the 22. They all deserve a big cheer.

"I believe we could beat Australia with this team and we want to see Simon Shaw and Danny Grewcock playing together. We want to see Matt Stevens and we want to see Ollie Smith and Simpson-Daniel.

"There's no doubt the World Cup was won because of the relations whip we have with our clubs," he added.

"England arrived as the best prepared team and that's why we won. England were not lucky to win the World Cup. We arrived as favourites and as the No. 1 team. That didn't happen overnight. In my opinion we were the best prepared team and you can't do that without working in partnership with the clubs.

"We've learned a lot of lessons about the World Cup and why we won it. My one wish is for us to arrive at the next one as favourites and as the No. 1 team in the world.

"There's no doubt the rest of the world is very annoyed that we won the thing and they'll be working very hard to catch us up," he added.

Twickenham: 15 Jason Robinson (Sale), 14 James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), 13 Ollie Smith (Leicester), 12 Stuart Abbott (Wasps), 11 Ben Cohen (Northampton), 10 Paul Grayson (Northampton), 9 Andy Gomarsall (Gloucester), 8 Martin Corry (Leicester), 7 Joe Worsley (Wasps), 6 Richard Hill (Saracens, captain), 5 Simon Shaw (Wasps), 4 Danny Grewcock (Bath), 30 Matt Stevens (Bath), 2 Steve Thompson (Northampton), 1 Trevor Woodman (Gloucester), Replacements: 16 Mark Regan (Leeds), 17 Andy Sheridan (Sale), 18 Hugh Vyvyan (Newcastle), 19 Pat Sanderson (Harlequins), 20 Kyran Bracken (Saracens), 21 Charlie Hodgson (Sale), 22 Mike Tindall (Bath).

Kick-off: 17.00


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