Matt Stevens named in England training squad
Saracens prop Matt Stevens has been included in England's 45-man World Cup training squad.
The 28-year-old returned to rugby in January following the end of a two-year drugs suspension and has not played for England since November 2008.
His fellow South Africa-born club-mate Mouritz Botha has also been selected.
Botha is one of five uncapped players called up, along with Manu Tuilagi, Thomas Waldrom, Joe Simpson and Charlie Sharples.
England manager Martin Johnson has also rewarded the Harlequins captain Chris Robshaw and Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth for their impressive seasons.
Johnson's decision to leave out in-form Gloucester skipper Luke Narraway and include New Zealand-born Waldrom, who discovered he was eligible for England midway through the season, prompted Narraway to post on Twitter: "Good luck to Thomas the tank and his English nan. #notbittermuch."
ENGLAND'S OVERSEAS-BORN PLAYERS
- SOUTH AFRICA
- Matt Stevens
- Hendre Fourie
- Mouritz Botha
- NEW ZEALAND
- Dylan Hartley
- Shontayne Hape
- Riki Flutey
- Thomas Waldrom
- Manu Tuilagi
- Joe Simpson
- Delon Armitage
- HONG KONG
- Charlie Sharples
- UNITED STATES
- Alex Corbisiero
- Simon Shaw
- Matt Banahan
Johnson said: "Every one of these players has the chance to be in that final 30 going to New Zealand. The camp is going to be intense and competitive, as you would expect leading up to a World Cup, but all the players are ready for it.
"We have guys such as Lewis Moody, Jonny Wilkinson and Mike Tindall who have been in this situation before but also a lot of players who won't have experienced a World Cup training camp.
"It's now up to all of them to set down their marker over the next 10 weeks before we head to New Zealand."
Stevens has not been on a losing team for Saracens or England Saxons since returning to rugby after his long ban for cocaine use.
His dynamism and versatility - he can play on the loose-head and tight-head - meant he was always a likely World Cup contender once he proved his fitness and form.
Capped 32 times, Stevens played in the 2007 World Cup final and toured with the British and Irish Lions in 2005.
At the other end of the experience scale, Johnson has drafted Leicester's 20-year-old centre Tuilagi into the training squad after a breakthrough season at Welford Road.
Tuilagi was voted the Premiership's young player of the year and would have been part of the Saxons campaign had he not been banned for punching Chris Ashton .
The 20-year-old was nearly deported last year after it emerged he did not have the right paperwork to be living in England.
Tuilagi, who has four brothers who played for Samoa, was granted indefinite leave to stay and declared his international allegiance to England.
MATT STEVENS FACTS
- Makes England Test debut against New Zealand on 12 June, 2004
- Goes on to win 32 caps before his drugs ban
- Last features for England against New Zealand on 29 November, 2008
- On February 26, 2009, given two-year ban for drugs use
- Makes competitve return for Saracens A on 24 January 2011
- Wins call-up to England training squad on 20 June
Botha, who arrived in England in 2004 and qualifies on residency grounds, has been in prime form for Saracens this year and impressed England's coaches during the recent Churchill Cup campaign.
He joins Courtney Lawes, Simon Shaw, Louis Deacon and Tom Palmer in the second row - a far cry from the days when he played for Bedford Athletic in National Three North, and experienced relegation with them to Midlands One .
Front-line hookers Dylan Hartley and Steve Thompson have been joined by George Chuter and Lee Mears.
There was no room for Gloucester lock Dave Attwood, who sustained a knee injury during the Churchill Cup, or Exeter flanker Tom Johnson in a competitive back row.
Saracens centre Brad Barritt made a strong case for selection during the season but England have picked five centres in Tuilagi, Tindall, Matt Banahan, Riki Flutey and Shontayne Hape.
England's first-choice back three - Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto - are joined by Sharples, James Simpson-Daniel, Ugo Monye, David Strettle and Delon Armitage.
England have picked four scrum-halves in Ben Youngs, Danny Care, Wigglesworth and Simpson.
Up front, Andrew Sheridan, Dan Cole and Alex Corbisiero all started games in the Six Nations and they are joined in the training squad by Stevens, Paul Doran-Jones, David Wilson and Tim Payne.
England may lack depth behind Nick Easter at number eight - but they are strong on the flanks with Tom Wood, Tom Croft, James Haskell, Joe Worsley, Lewis Moody and Robshaw all named.
The World Cup takes place in New Zealand from 9 September.
England World Cup training squad
Forwards (25): Props: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints), Tim Payne (London Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Matt Stevens (Saracens), David Wilson (Bath Rugby). Hookers: George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Steve Thompson (London Wasps). Locks: Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Louis Deacon (Leicester Tigers), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais), Simon Shaw (London Wasps). Back row: Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Hendre Fourie (Sale Sharks), James Haskell (Unattached), Lewis Moody (Bath Rugby), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Joe Worsley (London Wasps).
Backs (20): Full-backs: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints). Wings: Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby), James Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester Rugby), David Strettle (Saracens). Centres: Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby), Riki Flutey (London Wasps), Shontayne Hape (London Irish), Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers). Fly-halves: Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Charlie Hodgson (Saracens), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon). Scrum-halves: Danny Care (Harlequins), Joe Simpson (London Wasps), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).