England's shoddy second-half efforts leave alarm bells ringing as they head Down Under

England 35 Barbarians 26

England see a good deal of value in these annual "hit-outs" against the world's most celebrated invitation team, coming as they do before testing end-of-season visits to the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately for this Australia-bound party, the latest Barbarian combination were all "out" and no "hit" for much of the proceedings at Twickenham yesterday evening. Not only did they miss tackles the average rugby-playing infant might have expected to make, they also showed a distinct lack of interest in trying to make them in the first place.

Between them, the uncapped South African lock Ross Skeate and the similarly undecorated Australian full-back Paul Warwick did everything in their power to present Martin Johnson's side with cheap points, as did two colleagues who know what it is to play Test rugby and should therefore have made a better fist of it: the French centre Florian Fritz (18 international appearances) and the World Cup-winning Leicester second-rower Ben Kay (62 of the things.) By the time they had floundered around like four fillets of wet halibut, the soon-to-be tourists were 20 points up and out of sight.

Yet even against a Barbarians side as below-par as this one, England's performance level dropped like a stone after the interval, to the extent that Olly Barkley found himself aiming for the sticks with the last kick of the match, amid a cacophony of discontent from all corners of the stadium. The paying public expected to see a victory for the "serious" team, and see it they did. What they did not expect to witness was the national team running down the clock in desperation.

The early tries that fell to James Haskell and Shontayne Hape could both be laid at the door of an embarrassingly off-colour Fritz, who looked approximately a thousandth of the player he had appeared while helping Toulouse to a record-breaking fourth Heineken Cup victory in Paris eight days previously. The follow-up score awarded to Ben Foden was down to one of Fritz's countrymen, the referee Jérôme Garces. At this stage, England were in no obvious need of a leg-up from anyone, but Garces somehow missed Steve Thompson's impersonation of a gridiron quarterback as the hooker threw the most forward of forward passes in the build-up.

With Mark Cueto, among the most dependable of the current red-rose generation, and the freshly selected Gloucester lock Dave Attwood catching the eye, a 50-point canter was very much on the cards.

But they faded, along with everyone else. Amid half-hearted Mexican waves and desultory choruses of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", England proceeded to construct a sow's ear from a silk purse, conceding possession, territory and tries in the most alarming of manners. David Smith, an unusually strong wing from New Zealand, and Census Johnston, a ridiculously strong prop from Samoa, both crossed, transforming a 32-7 deficit into something much more intriguing.

When Sackey took advantage of some high-class work from Cedric Heymans to bag his second try late on, England found themselves praying for close of play. They were a sorry sight: disorganised, lumpen and depressingly short of ideas, they looked increasingly helpless against a ragbag a collection of demob-happy bar-room carousers. The final whistle saved them, which just about said it all.

England: Tries Haskell, Hape, Foden, Tindall; Conversions Hodgson 2, Barkley; Penalties Hodgson 2, Barkley. Barbarians: Tries Sackey, D Smith, Johnston, Sackey; Conversions Elissalde 3.

England: B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale), M Tindall (Gloucester), S Hape (Bath), D Strettle (Harlequins); C Hodgson (Sale), D Care (Harlequins); J

Golding (Newcastle), S Thompson (Brive), P Doran-Jones (Gloucester), D Attwood (Gloucester), T Palmer

(Stade Francais), J Haskell (Stade Francais), S Armitage (London Irish), N Easter (Harlequins, capt).

Replacements: O Barkley (Bath) for Hodgson 35; T Payne (Wasps) for Golding 45; D Ward-Smith (Wasps) for Attwood 52; L Mears (Bath) for Thompson 56; M Tait (Sale) for Hape 62; J Worsley (Wasps) for Armitage 71; J Simpson (Wasps) for Strettle 78.

Barbarians: P Warwick (Munster); P Sackey (Wasps), C Laulala (Cardiff Blues), F Fritz (Toulouse), C Heymans (Toulouse); J-B Elissalde (Toulouse), B Kelleher (Toulouse); R Roncero (Stade Francais), B August (Biarritz), J White (Leicester), R Skeate (Toulon), B Kay (Leicester), R So'oialo (Wellington), M Williams (Cardiff Blues), X Rush (Cardiff Blues, capt).

Replacements: J Thion (Biarritz) for Skeate 42; C Johnston (Toulouse) for White 49; G Smith (unattached) for Kay 49; D Smith (Wellington) for Warwick 52; F Estebanez (Brive) for Fritz 52; P Mignoni (Toulon) for Kelleher 65; K Owens (Scarlets) for August 76.

Referee J Garces (France).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life