Former Dudley Kingswinford and Coventry scrum half Shaun Perry has been called up for the first time by England to face New Zealand this weekend.
The Wolverhampton-born half back, who came through the junior ranks at Heathbrook before moving to Coventry in 2003, has been in scintillating form for Premiership leaders Bristol this season and was selected ahead of rival Peter Richards by head coach Andy Robinson.
That means the 28-year-old will complete a boy’s own tale on Sunday when, just a year-anda-half after leaving Butts Park and a job as a full-time welder, he takes on the favourites for next year’s World Cup.
Perry is one of two debutants named by Robinson — the other being Gloucester centre Anthony Allen — who claimed he would have picked the Bristol man earlier but for fitness problems.
"I am delighted for Anthony and Shaun, as well as the other players selected, for what will be a huge challenge," Robinson said.
"Shaun was unfortunate not to tour Australia in the summer because of a wrist injury, but he has maintained his form for Bristol this season and it is now right that he gets his chance."
Perry’s rise has been remarkable, given that he has only been a professional since the summer of 2005 but under the tutelage of former international half back Richard Hill — the Bristol head coach — he has developed at a startling rate in just 24 Premiership starts.
Worcester’s Pat Sanderson has also been named in the side as Robinson keeps faith with the back row trio he fielded in last season’s autumn internationals.
However, the Sixways skipper hands back captaincy of the national team to Martin Corry of Leicester. The armband isn’t the only thing the two have swapped, either.
Sanderson — an openside by choice — has been listed at No 8, Corry’s specialist position, with Corry moving to blindside and Lewis Moody lining up on the openside — a rather surprising selection, given the way Sanderson performed the last time he went up against the All Blacks.
Injury kept him out of this year’s Six Nations but he led the tour Down Under in the summer and although his displays for Worcester haven’t been vintage this campaign, he is a player who has gained Robinson’s trust.
The inclusion of Allen at inside centre will cause most interest. Just 20 and, like Perry, in just his second Premiership campaign, the youngster has been in brilliant form, both domestically and in the Heineken Cup.
"Anthony has really come through this season," said Robinson. "It’s testament to Gloucester and the RFU academy system that he is ready to play against the No 1 team in the world."
Allen will partner Jamie Noon in midfield and create an intriguing axis with fly half Charlie Hodgson but the hoped-for link-up with Mathew Tait will not happen because of an injury to the Newcastle Falcon.
Robinson confirmed Josh Lewsey (knee), James Forrester (knee) and Gloucester full back Olly Morgan (shoulder) were not considered for selection, while Tait is back at his club to continue rehabilitation on his thigh. The coach had already lost the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Olly Barkley, Matt Stevens and Steve Borthwick from his plans during an injury-hit build up for England’s autumn Test opener.
Robinson, meanwhile, has named three vice-captains — Perry, his half-back partner Hodgson and Leicester lock Ben Kay who is one of five Tigers forwards in the pack — Corry, Moody, hooker George Chuter and prop Julian White — as England look to stave off a sixth successive defeat.
The All Blacks clash marks the opening of Twickenham’s new South Stand, which will increase capacity to 82,000 and launches an autumn series that also features appointments with Argentina and South Africa (twice).
ENGLAND I Balshaw (Gloucester); M Cueto (Sale), J Noon (Newcastle), A Allen (Gloucester), B Cohen (Northampton); C Hodgson (Sale), S Perry (Bristol); A Sheridan (Sale), G Chuter Leicester), J White (Leicester), D Grewcock (Bath), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), P Sanderson (Worcester). Replacements: to be announced.