RWC 2015: England vs Wales - Anthony Watson backs Owen Farrell, Brad Barritt and Sam Burgess to come good against Welsh

Watson will have an all-new line-up inside him on Saturday night

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Anthony Watson, the England wing, is unfazed by Stuart Lancaster's gamble of deploying Brad Barritt and Sam Burgess as the centre partnership for the Wales match on Saturday.

The pair are part of a shake-up by the head coach following England’s World Cup opener against Fiji, partly enforced by a pectoral muscle injury to Jonathan Joseph.

While the watching public may feel that the combination is at best conservative and at worst barely tried – especially considering cross-coder Burgess, the outside centre for the match against Wales, has only three caps for England in rugby union – Watson said that most of the possible midfield permutations have already been tested on the training pitch.


“The amount of repetitions we put into training, with different combinations, it’s almost becoming instinct,” Watson said. “Playing with Sam at 13, Brad at 13, or Sladey [Henry Slade] at 13, we have run all those combinations in training often enough to know each other pretty much inside out.

“But anyone who comes in to fill [Joseph’s] boots will do their utmost. We’ve got great variety in the centres – obviously Sam, Sladey, Brad and those guys are more than capable of coming in and  filling that position.”

Watson has singled out George North as a key player for Wales and he said England “have to be on the money” with the winger, as he was with the 6ft 5in wideman Nemani Nadolo of Fiji on Friday night.

“George North is a big player for them,” Watson said. “Facing Nadolo was good preparation [for North]. They are both big players. They are slightly different – I think George is probably a bit quicker than Nadolo. So he has got that threat there as well.

“As I said with Nadolo last week, George is a player I have massive respect for. He is a British and Irish Lion, he has 50 caps already for Wales so he is definitely a special player for them.”

Watson added that the threat of North – coupled with the uncertainty over Wales’ backline – means England have to “do their homework” on whoever the head coach Warren Gatland picks.

He said: “We have done our homework on all the combinations that they can put out in the back three and I think we’ll have specific stuff that will apply depending on which players they do select. It’s important for us to be ready for any team they put out.”