England ready for star-studded Baa-Baas
May 29, 2009
Delon Armitage is out to impress in England colours this weekend © Getty Images
England kick off their international summer on Saturday, with a star-studded Barbarians side the visitors to Twickenham. Martin Johnson has taken the opportunity to have a look at several new faces ahaead of a two Test series with Argentina, beginning at Old Trafford on June 6.
Harlequins duo Chris Robshaw and Jordan Turner-Hall, the Guinness Premiership Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season, have been rewarded for excellent seasons with starts on the blindside and inside-centre respectively, with Bath wing Matt Banahan and Newcastle prop Dave Wilson also making their first appearances in an England shirt.
Delon Armitage starts at fullback after his disappointment of missing out on a British & Irish Lions berth, with Ben Foden getting a start out-of-position on the wing. Andy Goode and Danny Care start at halfback, while in the pack Lewis Moody makes a welcome return and Dylan Hartley gets his first start for England.
Johnson was quick to point out that despite disappointment at having missed out on the Lions squad, the opportunity remained for his players to impress this weekend.
"Guys like Delon [Armitage], Mark Cueto and Steve Borthwick are disappointed as they had every chance of making the original Lions squad," he said. "But the Lions haven't even played a game yet and if someone on that tour does get hurt then the best place for guys like Delon to be is with us playing well.
"But all of my players are fully concentrated on England. Of course they want to be with the Lions but I know they'll give us everything they can for England."
"We're going into this match with two tough Tests in Argentina ahead of us. The players we have to pick from have been reduced because of the Lions and injuries but this is an opportunity for us to see some other players who are back or who have missed out on selection. It's a good game to have as preparation to play Argentina."
The Baa-Baas, coached by Cardiff boss Dai Young and London Irish attack coach Mike Catt, can count on 632 caps' worth of international experience. England World Cup-winners Martin Corry, who will captain the side, and Josh Lewsey will be marking their Twickenham farewells as they prepare to retire at the end of the season.
Elsewhere, Rocky Elsom starts in the back-row after picking up the Man of the Match award for Leinster in last weekend's Heineken Cup final. Elsom, who has announced that he will return to Australia next season, starts alongside All Black Jerry Collins and French warhorse Serge Betsen.
Captain Corry is partnered by All Black Chris Jack in the second-row, with the Kiwi connection extending in to the backs with Doug Howlett, Ben Blair, Glen Jackson and Justin Marshall all turning out for the invitational side.
"Tomorrow is going to be hugely emotional. It's one of the few games which you go into and allow emotion to take over," said Corry. "I'm really looking forward to it. My family will be there to support me like they have been throughout my career. They'll see the last one while my kids will be mascots. Singing the national anthem - it should be awesome.
"I've had lots of highs and my fair share of lows but when I look back now at what I've experienced, it puts a smile on my face. That's the most important thing - I've got no regrets. If I was a little kid and were to write down what I wanted from a rugby career, then it would be what I've had."
England: D Armitage (London Irish); B Foden (Northampton), J Noon (Newcastle), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), M Banahan (Bath); A Goode (Brive), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Newcastle), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), L Deacon (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), N Wood (Gloucester), C Jones (Sale Sharks), S Armitage (London Irish), J Haskell (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), T May (Newcastle)
Barbarians: Ben Blair (Cardiff Blues & New Zealand), Doug Howlett (Munster & New Zealand), Josh Lewsey (London Wasps & England), Gordon D'Arcy (Leinster & Ireland), Iain Balshaw (Gloucester Rugby & England), Glen Jackson (Saracens), Justin Marshall (Saracens & New Zealand), Clarke Dermody (London Irish & New Zealand), Schalk Brits (Stormers & South Africa), Greg Somerville (Gloucester Rugby & New Zealand), Martin Corry (Leicester Tigers & England, capt), Chris Jack (Saracens & New Zealand), Jerry Collins (Toulon & New Zealand), Serge Betsen (London Wasps & France), Rocky Elsom (Leinster & Australia)
Replacements: Sebastien Bruno (Sale Sharks & France), B J Botha (Ulster & South Africa), Paul Tito (Cardiff Blues), Phil Waugh (Waratahs & Australia), Chris Whitaker (Leinster & Australia), Mike Catt (London Irish & England), Ratu Nasiganiyavi (Waratahs)
England broke their losing streak, but this was not them clawing their way back among the best, writes Tom Hamilton
Wales were just 13 minutes from a famous victory, but the lessons to be learned in defeat are almost exactly the same as those from previous near-misses, writes Huw Richards
Ahead of England's clash with Samoa, Scrum Sevens takes a wander down memory lane and celebrates seven examples of Pacific Islands magic
England must find a way to improve their game by tiny margins and they will get there, writes Phil Vickery