Saints trio named in England A squad for clash with Portugal

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Saints trio Tarek Haffar, Tom Pearson and Ollie Sleightholme have been named in the England A squad for the clash with Portugal on Sunday, February 25 (kick-off 1pm).

A 27-man group has been selected for the match, which will take place at Leicester Tigers' Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

It will be the first time an England A or Saxons side has taken to the field since 2016.

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The squad marks a first involvement in a senior England set-up for Haffar, with the 22-year-old loosehead prop previously capped three times at Under-20s level.

Ollie Sleightholme (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)Ollie Sleightholme (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Ollie Sleightholme (photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Sleightholme makes his first appearance in an England squad since 2021 as he is named as one of the 11 backs.

And Pearson, who earned a maiden England cap last summer against Wales, is one of 16 forwards in the squad having been with England’s senior group during the first two weeks of the Guinness Six Nations.

The side will also have Saints representation among the coaching team as Sam Vesty leads England A’s attack against Portugal, alongside Gloucester’s George Skivington and Dom Waldouck, who are head coach and defence coach respectively.

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The squad was selected by England senior men’s head coach Steve Borthwick.

And ahead of the clash, Borthwick said: “We’re delighted to see the return of A team rugby as such an important part of our rugby’s development and to announce the squad for the forthcoming fixture against Portugal.

“We have got a lot of talented and exciting young players in England, and this is a great opportunity for them to show they can play international rugby.

"We have selected players in this initial squad who we believe have the potential to be in the England team in the very near future.

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“One of the very important aspects of this A team is to provide a platform for players who have come out of the Under-20s and who are playing club rugby, allowing them to experience the international environment.

“It’s great to have the fixture at the Leicester Tigers’ stadium. It's an area where the supporters know and love their rugby. I have no doubt the players will revel in the support they will get from the stands.”

England A squad for the clash with Portugal

Forwards: Fin Baxter (Harlequins), Jamie Blamire (Newcastle Falcons, 7 caps), Tarek Haffar (Saints), Sam Riley (Harlequins), Seb Blake (Gloucester), Josh Iosefa Scott (Exeter Chiefs), James Harper (Sale Sharks), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens, 11 caps), Arthur Clark (Gloucester), Ben Bamber (Sale Sharks), Rusiate Tuima (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Pearson (Saints, 1 cap), Guy Pepper (Newcastle Falcons), Alfie Barbeary (Bath), Greg Fisilau (Exeter Chiefs), Jack Clement (Gloucester)

Backs: Caolan Englefield (Gloucester), Harry Randall (Bristol Bears, 2 caps), Charlie Atkinson (Gloucester), Jamie Shillcock (Leicester Tigers), Ollie Sleightholme (Saints), Oliver Hartley (Saracens), Rekeiti Ma’asi-White (Sale Sharks), Cadan Murley (Harlequins), Ollie Hassell-Collins (Leicester Tigers, 2 caps), Josh Hodge (Exeter Chiefs), Sam Harris (Bath)