Old heads and new blood for Baabaas

Johnson names veteran Moody alongside exciting uncapped Quins youngsters
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The England manager England Martin Johnson yesterday embraced the future by naming an exciting red-rose team – balanced by a few old heads – to tackle a strong Barbarians side at Twickenham on Saturday.

And among a clutch of 30-somethings who will trot out on to the pitch at HQ on Saturday is Lewis Moody, who has just helped Leicester win the Premiership title and finish runners-up in the Heineken Cup.

Injuries have kept the injury-prone Moody out of an England shirt for the last 15 months so it was no surprise to hear him say that he intends easing up a little on his very physical approach to rugby. Having missed the bulk of the 2008 Six Nations after rupturing an Achilles tendon against Wales, Moody was just a week away from the start of the 2009 Six Nations when he suffered a freak accident while training with Leicester.

The heavyweight Tigers wing Alesana Tuilagi fell on Moody's foot and the flanker suffered a broken ankle. And that has prompted a sea change in his approach to the game.

Moody is known for throwing himself heart and soul into every match and in the process putting his body and limbs on the line. But while he has stopped thinking that he has been unlucky with injuries he did say: "I have to temper it in training now because I'm not 20 anymore and the body doesn't quite last as long as it did before."

But the big-hearted Moody, who has 53 caps and is one of the most experienced players in the squad reassured England fans, squad and management alike when he added.

"But rugby is a contact sport and you're going to get injured and I certainly won't play any differently in games – that's what I am and I wouldn't be as useful as I am if I didn't play that way."

Johnson clearly has faith in Moody, and anyway knows from his Leicester days, and particularly as England captain when he led them to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, what the 30-year-old brings to a game, not merely in terms of skill, ball carrying and defence but also the more indefinable qualities. "Lewis Moody is always hungry. When you get him on there he is enthusiastic."

The other 30-something starters are centre Jamie Noon, prop Tim Payne and No 8 Nick Easter, while the captain is 29-year-old Steve Borthwick. But there is plenty of raw talent for Johnson to assess in this non-cap match. Ben Foden, 23, with one cap as a replacement scrum-half, will be on the right wing (he has played full-back for Northampton for much of the season), while Matt Banahan, Bath's 6ft 7in 18st-plus winger, starts on the left.

Two uncapped but exciting Harlequins players also get a start, the gifted centre Jordan Turner-Hall, 21, and brilliant blindside Chris Robshaw, 22, while club-mate, Danny Care, 22, the zippy scrum-half, is also in the starting XV. Newcastle's David Wilson, who is just 24, is at tighthead.

They will all have to be at their best because they are up against a formidable Barbarians side that features, among others, a back row to make anyone tremble, with All Black Jerry Collins, French legend Serge Betsen and Wallaby Rocky Elsom, not to mention England's Josh Lewsey, who partners Ireland's Gordon D'Arcy in the centre.

The Baabaas are being captained by former England captain Martin Corry, which prompted his former Tigers' and England team-mate Johnson to say: "Martin Corry is a fantastic player, a good bloke and a great example to any player about taking the highs and the lows, and we are looking to make sure he finishes on a low."

England v Barbarians: Twickenham teams

Saturday, May 30; kick-off 4.15pm

England: D Armitage (London Irish); B Foden (Northampton), J Noon (Newcastle), J Turner-Hall (Harlequins), M Banahan (Bath); A Goode (Brive), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Wilson (Newcastle), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), L Deacon (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), N Wood (Gloucester), C Jones (Sale Sharks), S Armitage (London Irish), J Haskell (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), T May (Newcastle).

Barbarians: B Blair (Cardiff Blues & NZ); D Howlett (Munster & NZ), J Lewsey (Wasps & Eng), G D'Arcy (Leinster & Irl) I Balshaw (Gloucester & Eng); G Jackson (Saracens), J Marshall (Saracens & NZ); C Dermody (London Irish & NZ), S Brits (Stormers & SA), G Somerville (Gloucester & NZ), M Corry (Leicester & Eng, capt), C Jack (Saracens & NZ), J Collins (Toulon & NZ), S Betsen (Wasps & Fr), R Elsom (Leinster & Aus).

Replacements: S Bruno (Sale & Fr), B J Botha (Ulster & SA), P Tito (Cardiff Blues), P Waugh (Waratahs & Aus), C Whitaker (Leinster & Aus), M Catt (London Irish & Eng), R Nasiganiyavi (Waratahs).