England 46 Barbarians 19: Sanderson's squad take a small step forward

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The Independent Online

It was one small step for England on the way to the 2007 World Cup, but a giant step against the Barbarians. The new red rose regime began its reign with a convincing victory over an invitation side that had won its previous three matches at Twickenham.

England's head coach, Andy Robinson, said: "It was a good performance. The thing that impressed us all was the attitude of the players at the end of the season. I was really pleased with the work-rate in the last 30 minutes, especially in defence."

Brian Ashton, appointed late last week as attack coach, was not so easily satisfied. "I thought they had a mixed game," he said, after revealing that he had been given just 20 minutes to work with the squad on Saturday.

"There is a lot of work to do. We need to sharpen our lines and be more threatening in the centre of the field."

England ran in six tries, although one or two were very soft - the replacement prop David Barnes will not score an easier try after collecting a ball when he was already over the line.

Several players impressed, especially in defence. Mathew Tait put in some wonderful tackles in the centre, as did the fly-half Olly Barkley, whose all-round game suggested that Charlie Hodgson will face a stern challenge in the run-up to the World Cup. The pack was solidand when the hooker David Paice entered the fray in the last quarter the Australian-born London Irish player showed mobility and quick-wittedness around the pitch.

England's intent was clear from the award of the first penalty. In Barbarians fixtures the kicking of penalties is frowned upon - it is a tradition that harks back to the days of blazered amateurs. England, though, are blazing professionals, so Barkley landed the first of two penalties.

But the crowd were still treated to plenty of tries, James Simpson-Daniel claiming two of them. His first came when he read Bruce Reihana's intention perfectly, intercepted and raced 80 metres upfield.

The Barbarians countered with two tries of their own. The first came after Tait failed to hang on to a pass, letting in the French flanker Olivier Magne, and the second followed a double miss-pass by the scrum-half Mark Robinson and was finished off by Reihana. Burke's second conversion eased the Barbarians into the lead.

England hit back just before half-time with the try of the game. Peter Richards interchanged with Tait as they covered 60 metres down the right before the scrum-half found his Gloucester team-mate Simpson-Daniel on his shoulder and "Sinbad" crossed the line for his second try.

After the interval Barkley added a try to his haul of kicks when pouncing on an attempted chip ahead by the All Black outside-half Carlos Spencer. He knocked over the conversion, one of five, to leave him with 21 points in the match.

England's acting captain Pat Sanderson, the Worcester workaholic, was singled out for praise by Robinson. "He led the side really well and has earned the respect of everyone in the team."

He also picked up the man of the match award, but his fellow back-rower James Forrester deserved a mention in dispatches, not just for his second-half try but also for his hard work in defence.

All in all it was a boost for Robinson before the two-Test tour to Australia. But it was only a small step.

England: M van Gisbergen (Wasps); J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), M Tait (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), I Balshaw (Leeds); O Barkley (Bath), P Richards (Gloucester); T Payne (Wasps), L Mears, D Bell, J Hudson (all Bath), A Brown, J Forrester (both Gloucester), M Lipman (Bath), P Sanderson (Worcester, capt). Replacements: D Paice (London Irish) for Mears, 56; D Barnes (Bath) for Payne 56-72 & for Bell 72; K Roche (London Irish) for Hudson, 56; J Haskell (Wasps) for Lipman, 76; S Bemand (Leicester) for Richards, 76; S Abbott (Wasps) for Catt, 56; D Armitage (London Irish) for Simpson-Daniel, 79.

Barbarians: M Burke (Australia); B Reihana (New Zealand), T Castaignède (France), D Fea'unati (Samoa), J Roff (Australia); C Spencer, M Robinson (both New Zealand); A Lo Cicero (Italy), R Ibañez (capt), C Califano (both France), R Casey (Ireland), T Palmer (England), T Kefu (Australia), O Magne (France), X Rush (New Zealand). Replacements: M Regan (England) for Ibañez, 66; P Bracken (Wasps) for Lo Cicero, 66-75 & for Califano, 75; D Leo (Samoa) for Casey, 75; S Harding (New Zealand) for Kefu, 66; J Marshall (New Zealand) for Robinson, 51; F Waters (England) for Fea'unati, 66; I Nacewa (Fiji) for Roff, 40.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).