CHRIS Pennell’s superb season for Warriors has been recognised with a place in the England squad for the four-match tour of New Zealand next month.
The Sixways vice-captain was Worcester’s stand-out performer in an otherwise difficult campaign that ultimately ended in relegation from the Aviva Premiership, playing every minute of all 22 league matches.
England head coach Stuart Lancaster was suitably impressed with the full-back’s outstanding contribution and has decided to put him on tomorrow’s flight to New Zealand.
Pennell, who is one of seven uncapped players in the squad, and Aviva Premiership player-of-the-season Mike Brown are the only two full-backs in the 30-man touring party, but the likes of Saracens’ Alex Goode and Northampton’s Ben Foden are likely to be added after this weekend’s Premiership Final.
The Sixways academy graduate was initially called up to an expanded training squad at the Lensbury Club in Teddington comprising players from the six Aviva Premiership clubs that weren’t involved in the end-of-season play-offs or the Heineken Cup latter stages.
However, despite the addition of players from the top-six clubs, Pennell was deemed to have done enough to earn his place on the plane.
Thirty players will fly to Auckland tomorrow and will be available for the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday, June 7.
A further group will leave on Monday, June 2 following the Aviva Premiership final between Saracens and Northampton Saints and the England XV v Barbarians match at Twickenham.
Lancaster said: “We are excited about the squad we are taking to New Zealand and, while there continues to be challenges in selection, we will be well and truly ready for the first Test.
“It has a been good few days training and great to be able to work with a larger group of players in the lead up to the Barbarians game and the tour.
“With the Barbarians game and the Aviva Premiership final to come we will make our final selection once we know the availability of all players. This group will fly out on the Monday following the Barbarians game.
“As is often the case, there are some players unavailable through injury and it is a shame that recently both George Ford (Bath) and Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers) have had to withdraw due to shoulder and knee injuries sustained towards the end of the season.
“Anthony Watson (Bath) is being treated for a hamstring injury and will continue his recovery in England before a final decision is made on whether he will join us in New Zealand on the Monday flight post Aviva final and Barbarians game.”
Former Warriors duo Matt Mullan (Wasps) and Matt Kvesic (Gloucester) will join Pennell on the plane to New Zealand, while ex-Sixways lock Graham Kitchener (Leicester) is in the England squad for Barbarians game.