'New Guscott' Jonathan Joseph is in while Toby Flood replaces Owen Farrell

 

Johannesburg

It is almost 30 years since England threw an uncapped midfielder into the fires of a Test in South Africa without the rugby equivalent of an asbestos suit and found themselves being burned alive collectively as a consequence. That centre was John Palmer, a wonderfully creative playmaker from Bath who might have caused the Springboks some problems had he not found himself playing out of position against Danie Gerber, one of the great centres of the post-war era. Gerber scored one try in the opening match and three more in the second.

The memory came surging back yesterday as Stuart Lancaster, midway through his first tour as England's head coach, confirmed what everyone had suspected for at least 24 hours: that an untried midfield combination, with Manu Tuilagi in the unfamiliar role of inside centre and the freshly-minted Jonathan Joseph in the outside channel, will take the field tomorrow at Ellis Park – the stadium in Johannesburg in which Gerber ran riot to the tune of a hat-trick in 1984. What was that old saying about those who forget their history?

Lancaster has certainly been bold. Tuilagi, the human bowling ball, will not be lacking in physicality – "He'll give us solidity; we have to recognise the threat South Africa pose in midfield," said the coach – while Joseph has been the talk of the coaching community for a long while. Indeed, the red-rose backs coach, Mike Catt, who nurtured the 21-year-old at London Irish, has described him as the "new Jeremy Guscott". And he should know, having played alongside the series-winning Lion for the best part of a decade.

But this arrangement will place enormous pressure on the tactical acumen of Toby Flood, recalled at outside-half for the unfortunate Owen Farrell. While the Springboks have three big-kicking backs boasting the full range of game-shaping skills – Morne Steyn, Frans Steyn and the full-back Patrick Lambie are all No 10s to a greater or lesser degree and will all boot the ball miles in the thin air of the veld – Tuilagi has no kicking game that anyone is aware of and is not a noted distributor either. As for Joseph, this is one heck of a place to make a first start in Test rugby. Flood knows he will have to manage his closest collaborators, and manage them well.

Flood weighed the prospects in his usual entertaining style.

"Me? Ignite the backline? You don't know me," he said with a laugh. "Seriously, we'll give it a crack. When we moved the ball late in the game last weekend we looked dangerous. I know Manu is slightly out of position but you need to go toe to toe with the Boks, to be both aggressive and pragmatic, and I think we can get him into the game a little more by playing him at 12."

Farrell soaked up a good deal of criticism after the Durban defeat, not all of it remotely justified, but the England selectors feel he is weary, physically and mentally, after a long run in the thick of it.

"He's only 20. This time a year ago he was playing a Junior World Cup final," Lancaster said. "He was disappointed when we gave him the news, but he's responded in exactly the way I would want someone to react. In fact, he's set an example."

Would England not miss the ferocity of his warrior spirit?

"Owen does have that spirit," the coach agreed, "but we have competitive individuals in all positions. I think Toby would be disappointed if anyone regarded him as anything other than a warrior."

Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn