Saturday 16 December 2017

Hodgson tips Sarries duo to shine on England debuts

ENGLAND fly-half Charlie Hodgson is confident his uncapped Saracens team-mates Owen Farrell and Brad Barritt are ready for Test match rugby.

Farrell and Barritt are set to be among three debutants named in a new-look England starting XV to tackle Scotland in Saturday's Six Nations opener at Murrayfield.

Northampton's Phil Dowson has been tipped to win his first Test cap at number eight, with Scarlets rookie Ben Morgan on the bench.

At least eight of the 22-man squad will be uncapped, with Jordan Turner-Hall, Lee Dickson, Geoff Parling and Rob Webber set to be involved.

Although England intend to play a different style to the Premiership champions, Hodgson is confident they can adapt well to coach Stuart Lancaster's attacking vision.

"We all have a good understanding already," Hodgson said. "Brad is one of the most consistent performers for Saracens in the last two years. He always gets over the gainline in attack and is very, very strong defensively.


"Owen has proved what temperament he has for such a young guy. His knowledge of the game is good."

Hodgson will make his first England start since his international career was declared over on the 2008 tour to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, one year after an embarrassing defeat, there is little chance that France will take Italy lightly in their Six Nations opener.

Last year, France were edged 22-21 by Italy, and new coach Philippe Saint-Andre said those involved last season will be out for right that defeat.

"There is desire for revenge from the players who played that game," he said. "They have a French coach (former Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel). We have a lot of respect for Italy."

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