World champions England are breaking with tradition and taking a squad of seven to Portugal in a bid to retain the gold so valiantly won on the banks of France’s River Seine last year.

The 48th World Championships is being fished on the River Mondego in Portugal on September 14/15, and coaches Mark Downes and Mark Addy have surprised many by calling up Essex ace Darren Davies, while still keeping together last year’s winning six man squad.

Mark Downes said: “We are the current World Champions and we intend keeping the crown we so richly deserved in Paris last year.

“Traditionally we select a squad of six and choose the team of five after fishing practice sessions on the match venue. Seven will give us even more flexibility.

“Darren has represented England three times in the Six Nations Championships. He is an impressive performer with an excellent record in the big events in Ireland.”

More than 30 nations are expected to compete in this year’s showpiece at Coimbra and the two coaches know they are under pressure to emulate the stunning 1987 England victory at the venue under former boss Dick Clegg. In that epic match Kevin Ashurst won individual silver while Barnsley ace Denis White collected bronze.

New squad member Darren Davies (34) comes from Hayes in Middlesex and is a key member of the Van den Eynde Essex County team which won the winter league final at the weekend. He has long been regarded by those in the know as one of the top ten match anglers in the country but is particularly rated for his bloodworm skills on canals and stillwaters and so was not expected to be called up for the river match in Portugal.

Darren said: “It has come as a total surprise. I am really thrilled to have the opportunity to represent my country on the world stage.”

How England intend to get seven anglers fishing in their restricted zone during official practice remains to be seen, and it could result in complaints by the card happy Italians in particular.

But there are rumblings that Darren’s inclusion is not unrelated to a very disappointing effort form four times world champion Bob Nudd at the European Championships in Belgium, which saw him dropped from the first team on the first day in favour of Shaun Ashby and come into the team on day two, only to come nearly last in section. England finished fifth.

The full squad for Portugal is: Bob Nudd, (Essex County) Alan Scotthorne, (Barnsley Blacks) Will Raison, (Dorking) Steve Gardener, (Dorking) Shaun Ashby, (Starlets) Stu Conroy, (Keenets Northwest) and Darren Davies (Essex County).