Saxons call can be a boost – Bristol stand-off Ed Barnes
Ed Barnes is hoping his first England Saxons experience can help boost Bristol's quest for Guinness Premiership survival.
The Bristol fly-half is the club's only representative in either the full England or Saxons squads and will start tonight's clash with Portugal at Edgeley Park, Stockport.
And after a positive week on the training field with players from leading Premiership clubs such as Leicester, Saracens and Bath, Barnes is already feeling the benefits of his time with England's second-string squad.
"You are always learning in rugby – and from playing with different players you learn a lot of different things," said Barnes.
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"You learn about how they like to attack and the lines they like to run – and when you see things working you can take that back to your club and try to introduce it.
"There are definitely one or two things I have picked up, both for myself and the team, which I can take back to Bristol and hopefully they will help give us a boost."
Despite being one of the oldest members of the Saxons matchday squad at 28, Barnes is relatively inexperienced at Premiership level, having worked his way up from National League One.
And he admits his Saxons call-up came as something of a surprise after making just 19 Premiership starts in his career.
"The whole week has been really exciting, although I really wasn't expecting the call," said Barnes.
"When I got it, I was very happy and my confidence has been boosted by the week I have had here. To be called up for the Saxons is massive and I am delighted."
Barnes will partner Leicester's Harry Ellis, who has 22 full caps, at half-back this evening and has enjoyed working with the 26-year-old this week.
"Harry is a class player – he has great service and runs the game very well," said Barnes. "It has been great training with him all week and I am excited about playing alongside him.
"Being here has been quite different to club rugby, meeting new boys from all over the country and playing a different game."
Bristol assistant coach Paul Hull has helped Barnes' transition from the club scene to the international ranks having recently taken on the role of Saxons assistant coach.
"There's a really good bunch of boys with the Saxons and they have all helped me settle in," said Barnes. "But having Hully around has also been really good for me. I just can't wait for the match now."
England Saxons: N Abendanon (Bath); T Varndell (Leicester), D Waldouck (Wasps), A Powell (Saracens), N Cato (Saracens); E Barnes (Bristol), H Ellis (Leicester); D Cole (Leicester), R Webber (Wasps), D Wilson (Newcastle), J Crane (Leicester), G Skivington (Wasps), K Myall (Leeds), A Saull (Saracens), P Dowson (Newcastle, capt). Reps: J Ward (Wasps), N Catt (Bath), T Mercey (Saracens), J Fisher (London Irish), J Simpson (Wasps), A Goode (Saracens), M Smith (Leicester).