Quintet seek harmony to pass England Test audition

Chance for Burns, Twelvetrees, Joseph, Wade and Yarde to excite against Baa-Baas

England are not exactly tripping the light fantastic on the try-scoring front these days; after putting four past Scotland at the start of the Six Nations in February, they managed only one more all tournament, and that was a fluke. Even so, it seems odd to suggest that a new back division shorn of Chris Ashton and Manu Tuilagi, the most dangerous red-rose strike runners of their generation, looks a lot more exciting than the old one.

Freddie Burns, Billy Twelvetrees, Jonathan Joseph, Christian Wade, Marland Yarde... if this quintet combine in perfect harmony and give a hard-bitten Barbarians side the runaround at Twickenham tomorrow, the England coach, Stuart Lancaster, will be forgiven for wondering if he should rip things up and start again. At the very least, he is likely to find himself looking at his next elite squad selection in a fresh light.

Lancaster said yesterday that come July, when the hard calls must be made, there will be three distinct groups waiting to be mixed and matched. The first, most familiar batch of contenders will have been on the British and Irish Lions tour of Australia: men like Tuilagi, Owen Farrell, Dan Cole and the Youngs brothers. The second, including Ashton and the national captain, Chris Robshaw, should be well rested and raring to go, having been given the summer off.

And the third group? That’s this lot, and very ambitious they are too. Wade and Yarde have something different about them – not least the kind of straight-line speed that England have been missing of late. Joseph? All the 2012 talk about the “new Jeremy Guscott” may have been over the top, but if he can stay fit for longer than five minutes he may yet mount a serious challenge to Tuilagi at outside-centre. As for Burns and Twelvetrees, it will be no great surprise to see the Gloucester creative axis firmly embedded in the England midfield at the World Cup in a little over two years’ time.

Lions years have proved difficult for England in the past, with returning players introducing fresh ideas to the mix and knocking the red-rose process out of kilter. Lancaster does not believe it will happen this time. “I remember the debate over contrasting styles of play after the last Lions tour in 2009, but I see this trip as a tick all round for us,” he said. “It will be good for the English Lions to work with other coaches and develop their games. The main challenge I envisage concerns selection. I’ll be choosing from people who have made the Lions Test team, people who have had a proper break from the game and people who have put up their hands against the Barbarians and, following on from that, our matches in South America next month.”

The England line-up for the first Test of next month’s tour against Argentina in Salta a fortnight today will feature a good number of the players involved tomorrow, but some of those on Premiership final business this afternoon will also be available. As a result, this annual bunfight with the Baa-Baas is more significant than usual, particularly for the Saracens scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth and the Exeter flanker Tom Johnson, who badly need to catch the eye if they are to survive the reintroduction of Lee Dickson and his Northampton clubmate Tom Wood.

Meanwhile, the former England attack coach, Joe Lydon, will be back on the RFU’s payroll before the start of next season, as head of international player development. Lydon, one of the most celebrated rugby league players of the 1980s, has spent recent seasons performing a similar role in Wales.

“Joe demonstrated he has a knowledge of professional rugby, credibility and a passion to make a difference,” Lancaster said.

England XV v Barbarians

15 Mike Brown (Harlequins)

14 Christian Wade (Wasps)

13 Jonathan Joseph (L Irish)

12 Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester)

11 Marland Yarde (London Irish)

10 Freddie Burns (Gloucester)

9 Richard Wigglesworth (S’cens)

8 Ben Morgan (Gloucester)

7 Matt Kvesic (Gloucester)

6 Tom Johnson (Exeter)

5 Dave Attwood (Bath)

4 Joe Launchbury (Wasps)

3 David Wilson (Bath)

2 Rob Webber (Bath, capt)

1 Alex Corbisiero (London Irish)

Kick-off, 1pm, Twickenham, tomorrow

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital