Exeter-born England Saxons training squad centre Matt Hopper, image courtesy and copyright ppauk.comExeter-born Harlequins centre Matt Hopper will be hoping to celebrate his 27th birthday on Sunday with a homecoming debut for England Saxons against Irish Wolfhounds at Sandy Park on Saturday (1700).

The 26-year-old joined Quins from Cornish Pirates last season and has just been called into the Saxons training squad for the first time.

Hopper’s rise from starting out in junior sides at Exeter – where his father Keith was chiefs captain in the 1960s - to national recognition after 11 first team appearances for the mighty Quins is the stuff boyhood dreams are made of and should prove inspirational to rugby players across the region.

Hopper played senior rugby at Exeter junior club Wessex RFC before moving on to Cardiff University, spending a spell with Sydney side Manly and then returning to Devon with Plymouth Albion.

Hopper said: “I’ve always had confidence in my own ability and what I could do.

“I’m obviously really happy to get the call and very excited about joining up with the Saxons.

“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind over the last few months. I’ll have a lot of family and friends watching, and playing at Exeter is a nice bonus for me. Just to be part of it is really something.”

Saxons’ training base is at Woodbury Park Golf & Country Club, near Exeter, and the side to face the Wolfhounds is due to be named on Thursday.

England Saxons squad - backs Nick Abendanon (Bath Rugby) Delon Armitage (London Irish) Matt Banahan (Bath Rugby) Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby) Matt Hopper (Harlequins) Paul Hodgson (London Irish) Ryan Lamb (Northampton Saints) Jonny May (Gloucester Rugby) Ugo Monye (Harlequins) Billy Twelvetrees (Leicester Tigers) Micky Young (Leicester Tigers)

Forwards Chris Brooker (Harlequins) Paul Doran-Jones (Northampton Saints) Matt Garvey (London Irish) James Gaskell (Sale Sharks) Joe Gray (Harlequins) Rupert Harden (Gloucester Rugby) Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs) Matt Mullan (Worcester Warriors) Kearnan Myall (Sale Sharks) George Robson (Harlequins) Andy Saull (Saracens) Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers) Thomas Waldrom (Leicester Tigers) Nick Wood (Gloucester Rugby)

Saxons training: Hopper at Woodbury (courtesy phil mingo, pinnacle photo agency uk)

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