New faces out to seize opportunity
May 22, 2007
England's written-off forwards are determined to make their mark when they take on a revered South Africa pack in Bloemfontein.
The England eight contains two 35-year-olds in Bristol hooker Mark Regan and Sale prop Stuart Turner, while Gloucester loosehead Nick Wood and Sale lock Dean Schofield both make first Test starts.
Saturday's mission could be described as hazardous even at full-strength, but England have travelled without players from Leicester, Wasps or Bath.
That means the Springboks will not face established names like Phil Vickery, Julian White, Joe Worsley or Martin Corry.
And 28-year-old Schofield, one of the Guinness Premiership's most uncompromising customers, knows what lies ahead.
He said: ``The South African forwards are a very physical set of lads, and we know we are up against it.
``We will need to play our socks off and get stuck into them. I won't be doing anything other than playing my own game, which is to get stuck into it.
``I don't know any other way to play, and I am not going to go in with a different mindset.''
For 24-year-old Wood, the Bloemfontein encounter provides a chance to lay down a World Cup marker in his first appearance since Gloucester saw their Premiership title hopes smashed by Leicester at Twickenham 10 days ago.
Wood said: ``My aim this season was to establish myself in the Gloucester starting XV and learn as much as I could off the players around me there.
``Sport is all about opportunities, as you saw with someone like Tom French for Wasps in the Heineken Cup final against Leicester at the weekend.''
Behind the scrum, 21-year-old Harlequins full-back Mike Brown is another who can show England head coach Brian Ashton he means business barely three months away from the World Cup.
The England number 15 shirt has not been pinned down by any outstanding candidate this season, and Brown, who is also a Level One-qualified referee, said: ``I've got to prove myself to Brian and take it from there, really.
``I wanted to show Brian what I could do in training first of all, and then hopefully get a look-in for one of the Tests, either off the bench or starting.
``One of my goals was to get into the Quins team and cement my place this season, and hopefully I can take it on to next season.
``I can't be a one-hit wonder, I need to show I can keep going and be consistent.
``I am sure South Africa will test me early doors. I am a new boy at this level, and I am sure they will test me straight away.''
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