LONDON (AP) — Calum Clark was handed a second chance to build an international rugby career with England after being called up for the Six Nations on Wednesday, just two months after completing a 32-week ban for breaking an opponent's arm.
The versatile Northampton forward was one of two uncapped players — with center Billy Twelvetrees — summoned by England coach Stuart Lancaster for the tournament as part of eight changes to the 33-man squad.
It gives the 23-year-old Clark a shot at redemption with his national team — he trained with England during last year's Six Nations but his international aspirations were put on hold after being found guilty of hyperextending the elbow of Leicester's Rob Hawkins during a domestic match in March.
The ugly incident tarred his reputation, despite his remorse, and cost him a chance of touring South Africa last summer as he was slapped with a ban from March to November. Lancaster, who knows Clark well from their time together at Leeds, is willing to offer him a fresh opportunity, however.
"He has had a tough lesson to learn and he has learned it," Lancaster said. "He has been harnessing the competitive nature he has got, which you want in players to win games, but he is channeling that in the right way."
Clark, who plays as a flanker, No. 8 or in the second row, will likely be the understudy to captain and flanker Chris Robshaw but his versatility makes him a good option for the bench. Winger David Strettle and flanker James Haskell were recalled to the revised squad, while forwards Joe Launchbury, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola and flyhalf Freddie Burns were all promoted to the senior group from the second-string Saxons after playing well in the autumn tests.
Twelvetrees is arguably the most interesting of the eight changes as his form for Gloucester has been mixed. However, he has undoubted potential and offers a playmaker option compared to the hard-running style of fellow centers Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi.
Flanker Tom Croft is included after overcoming a career-threatening neck injury but he is unlikely to play in the competition, with his return to action being closely monitored by doctors. England's first game in the Six Nations is against Scotland on Feb. 2 as the team looks to build on its second-place finish in the 2012 competition and its stunning 38-21 win over New Zealand on Dec. 1.
"This is a very important year for England, with the Six Nations and the Saxons games to look forward to so there are some great opportunities for the players to demonstrate their club form at international level," Lancaster said.
"The summer tour to Argentina will also be a great chance for those players pushing for a place, especially with some of our senior squad hopefully going with the Lions (on tour to Australia)."
Forwards: Calum Clark, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Tom Johnson, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Joe Marler, Ben Morgan, Geoff Parling, Chris Robshaw, Mako Vunipola, Thomas Waldrom, David Wilson, Tom Wood, Tom Youngs. Backs: Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Freddie Burns, Danny Care, Lee Dickson, Owen Farrell, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Alex Goode, Jonathan Joseph, David Strettle, Manu Tuilagi, Billy Twelvetrees, Billy Youngs.