On their own admission, England know next to nothing about the South African Barbarians they will face in Kimberley tomorrow, apart from that around half of them come from Eastern Province, where the rugby folk tend to fight first and engage in discussion at a later date. Equally, the tourists are not quite sure how to react to the events in Durban last weekend – not only in relation to the body-count, but also regarding the nature of the Springbok victory.
The head coach, Stuart Lancaster, was keen to see Ben Foden, his full-back in the Six Nations, play three Tests on the left wing. That is now unlikely, thanks to Mike Brown's busted thumb, although Alex Goode of Saracens, one of the "and now for something completely different" brigade, can expect to be on the bench for the resumption of hostilities with the Boks if he goes well in Kimberley.
Lancaster is also thinking hard about his midfield now Brad Barritt is out with eye trouble. The coach will not draw any final conclusions until after today's training run – the first for the elite players since the setback on Saturday.
"It's a very important session for us and some players need to train well," Lancaster said. Toby Flood of Leicester falls into that category, as does Owen Farrell, whose game management in Durban has been criticised more than his defensive bravery and dead-eye marksmanship have been celebrated.
With the odds shortening on Jonathan Joseph of London Irish making a first Test start at outside-centre, it may be that Flood and Farrell will be paired as footballing inside backs. The possibility of this grew when Lancaster talked of Manu Tuilagi's teenage experiences as a wing.
"I think Manu played virtually all of his age-group rugby in that position," Lancaster said. "In fact, he played in the same back division as Owen and Jonathan." Unless the coach was pulling a fast one, there seems more chance of the human bowling ball moving outwards from No 13 than inwards.
Another contender for duty at Ellis Park is the loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero, who had surgery on his biceps before the tour and has been struggling with a swollen knee. He will not reclaim his place from Joe Marler but he may be included among this weekend's replacements.
George Robson, the Harlequins lock, will lead the "dirt-trackers" tomorrow, apeing the Test captain, Chris Robshaw.
"Two skippers from one club is an impressive achievement," Lancaster said. The game will mark James Haskell's return to representative duty after spells in Japan and with the Dunedin-based Highlanders Super 15 team. The Quins scrum-half Danny Care has an opportunity to complete his rugby rehabilitation after a series of alcohol-linked arrests.
David Strettle of Saracens will play on the wing, as will the free-scoring Wasp Christian Wade, whose defensive frailties were ruthlessly exposed on his only previous appearance as a senior England player, against the Barbarians last month. Anthony Allen of Leicester and Jordan Turner-Hall of Quins – two inside-centres – have been chosen ahead of Quins' George Lowe, a No 13.
England XV: A Goode; D Strettle (both Saracens), A Allen (Leicester), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), C Wade (Wasps); C Hodgson (Saracens), D Care (Harlequins); M Mullan (Worcester), J Gray (Harlequins), P Doran-Jones (Northampton), G Kitchener (Leicester), G Robson (Harlequins, capt), J Haskell (Highlanders), C Fearns (Bath), T Waldrom (Leicester). Replacements: T Youngs (Leicester), R Harden (Gloucester), T Palmer (Stade Français), J Gibson (London Irish), L Dickson (Northampton), G Lowe (Harlequins), N Abendanon (Bath).Reuse content