Ben Foden was keen to make himself clear. "When you play the Barbarians, you find yourselves being pulled into their style of rugby," the England full-back said this week. "It's hard not to get swept up in it and that's when mistakes happen. We need to control the tempo of the game, to play in the right areas." It was a thoughtful appraisal of the prospects for tomorrow's contest at Twickenham. Anyone would think it was a Test match.
Which it isn't. Not by a very long chalk, despite the picture painted by a deadly serious red-rose coaching team ahead of this annual pre-tour runaround against the men in hooped shirts. England versus the Springboks in Durban a fortnight today? Now, that's a Test match. By comparison, an 80-minute entanglement with the sport's most celebrated invitation team, most of whom have spent the last few days in – how can we put this? – convivial surroundings, should be child's play.
Hence the appearance of a new kid on the England wing: the free-scoring Christian Wade of Wasps, fresh out of his teens. Having made the cut for the trip to South Africa, the uncapped finisher from High Wycombe will benefit from an afternoon's activity in the company of Foden, Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt, Owen Farrell and a fistful of other international regulars. So too will the equally undecorated Bath flanker Carl Fearns.
England tend to find these games fiendishly difficult: the Baa-Baas, unstructured by definition, have no choice but to play it off the cuff and as a result they do unpredictable things in strange areas of the pitch. Denied those Harlequins and Leicester players involved in today's Premiership final, the England head coach, Stuart Lancaster, has mixed and matched. "It's a question of balance," he said. As balanced performances are as rare as hen's teeth when the Baa-Baas are in town, a win of any sort will do.
England: B Foden; C Ashton (both Northampton), B Barritt, O Farrell (both Saracens), C Wade (Wasps); C Hodgson (Saracens), L Dickson (Northampton); M Stevens (Saracens), D Hartley, P Doran-Jones (both Northampton), M Botha (Saracens), T Palmer (Stade Français), T Johnson (Exeter), C Fearns (Bath), P Dowson (capt; Northampton). Replacements: L Mears (Bath), M Mullan (Worcester), J Launchbury (Wasps), J Gibson (London Irish), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish), A Goode (Saracens)
Barbarians: M Muliaina (New Zealand); P Sackey (England), C Laulala (New Zealand), M Tindall, I Balshaw (both England); S Donald (New Zealand), R Lawson (Scotland); N Tialata (New Zealand), J Smit (capt; South Africa), J Afoa (New Zealand), M Chisholm (Australia), A van Zyl (Stade Français), EJoubert (Saracens), A Qera (Fiji), J Beattie (Scotland). Replacements: B August (France), D Jones (Wales), P Taele (Samoa), R Lakafia (France), J Fillol (Stade Français), F Contepomi (Argentina), S Tagicakibau (Samoa).
Referee: J Lacey (Ireland).
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