England out to hit the ground running
June 7, 2010
Chris Robshaw will captain England © Getty Images
England kick off their tour of Australia with a vital warm-up against the Australian Barbarians in Perth on Tuesday, with both sides keen to press their claims prior to Saturday's first Test between Martin Johnson's tourists and the Wallabies.
Fans at Perth's ME Bank Stadium, home to the Western Force, will see two strong teams slug it out as the holy grail of Test selection hangs over their head. England's last outing was a mixed showing in a narrow win over the Barbarians on May 31, while Australia opened their season account with a 49-3 win over Fiji in Canberra last weekend.
The Barbarians side is an interesting mix of youth and experience drawn from the Wallabies' wider training squad, and features plenty of quality to test an undoubtedly strong England side. Johnson's intention to blood a number of players with the 2011 World Cup in mind is apparent in his selection while there are several names on the team-sheet with questions to answer.
Fly-half duties pass to Charlie Hodgson, with Jonny Wilkinson still sidelined, while Delon Armitage and Ugo Monye provide plenty of experience in the back-three along with Bath's Matt Banahan. The centre pairing, Sale's Mathew Tait and the Premiership's form midfielder, Olly Barkley, suggests that grunt will trump craft for Saturday's Test as both Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall will watch from the stands.
Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw will captain the side while Leeds' Hendre Fourie and Wasps' Dan Ward-Smith complete a hard-working back-row. Leicester's Geoff Parling and Gloucester's Dave Attwood get their chance to impress in the second-row, while Bath trio David Flatman, Lee Mears and David Wilson are the front-row.
The tight exchanges will be vital for Australia, following Brumbies prop Ben Alexander's unfortunate injury against Fiji, as Pek Cowan looks to cement his place in a rookie front row for Saturday's Test. He starts alongside Huia Edmonds and Laurie Weeks, with all three looking to book their place in the full squad along with likely starters Saia Faingaa and Salesi Ma'afu.
"The props we have selected in the squad are there on merit," Deans said. "It'll be a step up for all of them, no doubt, but they have earned that right. You talk about your concerns about new Test players. When Ben Alexander started he'd had two minutes of Super Rugby. All of these blokes have played full campaigns. They've got good backgrounds."
Another major point of interest comes at fly-half, where Berrick Barnes will be fired up and ready to prove his doubters wrong after slipping behind Quade Cooper in the reckoning for the Fiji Test. Barnes will co-captain the side along with Brumbies No.8 Stephen Hoiles, who will look after a youthful but mobile pack.
Australian Barbarians: J O'Connor (Western Force); N Cummins (Western Force), W Chambers (Queensland Reds), A Faingaa (Queensland Reds), L Turner (NSW Waratahs); B Barnes (NSW Waratahs, co-captain), J Valentine; P Cowan (Western Force), H Edmonds (ACT Brumbies), L Weeks (Queensland Reds), M Chapman (ACT Brumbies), M Chisholm (ACT Brumbies), B McCalman (Western Force), M Hodgson (Western Force), S Hoiles (ACT Brumbies, co-captain)
Replacements: D Fitzpatrick (NSW Waratahs), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), K Douglas (NSW Waratahs), P McCutcheon (NSW Waratahs), L Burgess (NSW Waratahs), K Beale (NSW Waratahs), P Hynes (Queensland Reds)
England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Banahan (Bath), M Tait (Sale Sharks), O Barkley (Bath), U Monye (Harlequins); C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks); D Flatman (Bath), L Mears (Bath), D Wilson (Bath), D Attwood (Gloucester), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), H Fourie (Leeds), D Ward-Smith (Wasps).
Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), P Doran-Jones (Gloucester), C Lawes (Northampton), J Worsley (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), S Geraghty (Northampton), D Waldouck (Wasps)
Referee: Stu Dickinson (Aus)
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9