England Saxons may be the early pacesetters in the Churchill Cup – a tournament in its death throes, much to the frustration of those directly involved with the second-string side – but they face a serious test of their mettle at Kingsholm tomorrow.
Tonga, busily preparing for a World Cup campaign in which they will face New Zealand and France in the pool stage, put 44 points on the United States Eagles in midweek, and while the Saxons sailed past the 80-point mark against the same opponents seven days ago, the Americans fielded a stronger side against the Pacific Islanders.
Alex Goode, the Saracens full-back, replaces Mike Brown of Harlequins in the starting line-up while Charlie Sharples of Gloucester gets a run on the wing in front of his home crowd ahead of Worcester's Miles Benjamin. Paul Hodgson, the experienced London Irish scrum-half, takes the No 9 shirt from Micky Young, who has just joined Leicester from Newcastle, and there is also a switch at hooker, where Hodgson's club-mate David Paice comes in for Joe Gray, the Harlequin who left last week's proceedings on a stretcher. Happily, Gray is fit enough to sit on the bench.