Saints’ Aviva Premiership Final try hero Alex Waller has been picked for England’s Test tour of New Zealand.
The Kettering-born prop is among the reinforcements summoned to take on the All Blacks from Saturday’s Aviva Premiership finalists.
Waller replaces knee-injury victim Mako Vunipola as reward for scoring the try in the final minute of extra-time that secured a 24-20 victory over Saracens at Twickenham.
The 24-year-old is among 16 players who will depart for New Zealand tonight in time to compete for selection for the second and third Tests against the All Blacks.
Waller is joined on the flight by Saints team-mates Luther Burrell, Lee Dickson, Ben Foden, Courtney Lawes, Stephen Myler, Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley, who completed his comeback from a shoulder injury in the match at Twickenham.
And Hartley is delighted that Waller’s contribution to Saints’ glorious season has been rewarded.
“Alex has had an unbelievable year,” said Hartley said.
“I’m not going to say he’s been an unsung hero, because he’s had recognition, but he’s finally come into his own as a player.
“Alex Corbisiero started the final on Saturday, but Alex Waller’s played all season and it’s perfect for us to have two class props.
“For Alex to come on, bash his eye, and then to score the try is testament to his character as a bloke.
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a Test shot and I feel like a proud dad!
“He’s come through the Academy, is a close friend of mine, and I can’t wait to tour with him. He deserves to get England honours.”
Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell and number eight Billy Vunipola are present after suffering cramp in the final, as is former Saints winger Chris Ashton, and further additions have been drawn from Bath and Harlequins, with Anthony Watson and Kyle Sinckler also on board the flight bound for New Zealand.
“We are looking forward to the guys flying in and adding to the group,” England head coach Stuart Lancaster said.
“We watched the Premiership final and the England XV game against the Barbarians and are pleased with how the players performed and came through.
“There are no major injuries which would prevent anyone flying and, with four big games to come, we are confident there will be opportunities for everyone on the tour.
“It is great to be able to work with a wider group and we feel that the younger players will really benefit from the experience of coming to New Zealand, understanding the culture and challenging themselves in this the most competitive of environments.”
England squad additions: C Ashton (Saracens), B Barritt (Saracens), L Burrell (Northampton Saints), L Dickson (Northampton Saints), O Farrell (Saracens), B Foden (Northampton Saints), A Goode (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), S Myler (Northampton Saints), K Sinckler (Harlequins), B Vunipola (Saracens), A Waller (Northampton Saints), A Watson (Bath Rugby), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), T Wood (Northampton Saints).