Saracens prop Matt Stevens included in England Saxons squad

Matt Stevens
Stevens played for Bath before his ban

Saracens prop Matt Stevens has been named in England Saxons squad for June's Churchill Cup.

The 28-year-old's selection in the 24-man squad marks his return to the international scene for the first time since a two-year ban for cocaine use.

South Africa-born lock Mouritz Botha, also part of Saracens' Premiership-winning side, has been called up after qualifying on residency grounds.

England play the United States and Tonga on 4 and 12 June respectively.

A final match against Canada, Italy A or Russia will follow on 18 June before England manager Martin Johnson announces his preliminary squad of about 40 players for September's Rugby World Cup, two days later.

The preliminary squad will then be cut down to a 30-man squad - to be finalised by 22 August - to head to New Zealand for the sport's biggest tournament.

Northampton flanker Calum Clark's and Saracens back-rower Andy Saull's faint hopes of making the World Cup squad seem to have gone after they were ruled out of the Saxons squad with back and leg injuries respectively.

Sale's James Gaskell and London Irish's Jamie Gibson have been called up in their place.

Harlequins prop Joe Marler and Northampton fly-half Stephen Myler were also due to be included in the second-string squad, but suffered injuries during England's game against the Barbarians on Sunday.

Coach Stuart Lancaster will name replacements for the pair before the tournament gets under way.

The most recent of Stevens's 32 Test appareances came in a 32-6 defeat by New Zealand in November 2008, two months before it was announced he had returned a positive drugs test.

During his time away from the game, Stevens kept himself fit by practising Brazilian ju-jitsu, and his January arrival in Saracens' front row has coincided with a 13-match winning run.

Two years ago, Botha also seemed far from England recognition, turning out for National League One side Bedford.

But the 29-year-old has since formed a formidable partnership with former England captain Steve Borthwick in Saracens' second row.

Stevens and Botha are both relative veterans in a Saxons squad with an average age of 23 - the team's youngest ever.

Henry Trinder, Charlie Sharples, Rory Clegg, Joe Gray, Kieran Brookes, Billy Twelvetrees, Gibson and Gaskell, all 22 or younger, will all make their tournament debuts.

Another youngster, Manu Tuilagi, 20, has been ruled out of contention after he received a five-week ban for punching Northampton's Chris Ashton.

Players who impress while playing for the Saxons may get a further chance to prove their World Cup credentials when England play warm-up Tests against Wales on 6 and 13 August, with a final Test against Ireland on 27 August after the squad has been confirmed.

England Saxons:

David Attwood (Gloucester Rugby) Mouritz Botha (Saracens) Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers) James Gaskell (Sale Sharks) Jamie Gibson (London Irish) Joe Gray (Harlequins) Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) Graham Kitchener (Worcester Warriors) Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors) Luke Narraway (Gloucester Rugby) David Paice (London Irish) Matt Stevens (Saracens) Miles Benjamin (Worcester Warriors) Mike Brown (Harlequins) Rory Clegg (Harlequins) Alex Goode (Saracens) Paul Hodgson (London Irish) Topsy Ojo (London Irish) Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby) Henry Trinder (Gloucester Rugby) Jordan Turner-Hall (Harlequins) Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers) Micky Young (Newcastle Falcons)

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