The 22 England players facing the Barbarians at Twickenham this afternoon will find themselves being serenaded before they can strut their stuff at HQ.
Opera's latest hot property, Tony Henry, a former security guard and stuntman will sing "Jerusalem" and his adaptation of Enrique Iglesias's "Hero" before the players make their way on to the field, then lead the 65,000 crowd in the National Anthem. Whether it will stir this so-called shadow side into great deeds, great enough not only to stake a last minute place on England's forthcoming tour to New Zealand and Australia, but more importantly put themselves into serious contention for a World Cup place Down Under in the autumn remains to be seen.
The Newcastle fly-half Dave Walder has the hardest looking job, proving he can fill in for his club-mate Jonny Wilkinson. Clive Woodward, the England head coach, has assured everyone in the 22-man squad that they are under consideration, and with Charlie Hodgson out of contention because of a serious injury Walder could not have a better opportunity.
He has played just three club matches this season and it looks like an uphill task, but the 25-year-old is aware of what he has to do. "I played in the game last year and it was a great occasion. Having had a pretty bad year I'm delighted to get the chance on Sunday," he said.
"I have played bits and pieces of three games against Northampton, Saracens and Bath. I wouldn't say I'm at full fitness but I'm getting back into it. My lungs are still burning a bit but the leg has come through everything I have done in training, so confidence-wise I am fine. It is just the running in the game I may be lacking a little bit.
"I was taking a high ball in a pre-season friendly against Edinburgh and the Scotland scrum-half, Mike Blair, jumped into me and it snapped on impact. It was a clean break, a fracture across the middle of the tibia - they didn't need to pin it."
Walder missed most of Newcastle's successful battle against relegation and admitted: "It was pretty frustrating. It's bad enough when you are playing but when you are watching there's nothing you can do about it." But there is certainly something he can do about advancing his career, as can all his England team-mates, including fullback Dan Scarbrough. He too has been a victim of injury at a critical stage in the season.
He explained: "I had a grade two medial tear which could have been very nasty. Luckily I got away with it, it's been a six-week affair and I'm almost over it now. I'll just have to play with a bit of strapping." And if it all comes off for them then they could find themselves singing all the way to the World Cup.
Barbarians: P Montgomery (Newport & South Africa); A Tuilevu (Otago Highlanders & Fiji), T Castaignède (Saracens & France), J Bell (Ulster & Ireland), B Rheihana (Northampton & New Zealand); D Humphreys (Ulster & Ireland), A Pichot (Bristol & Argentina); C Califano (Saracens & France), M Sexton (Ulster), C Hayman (Otago Highlanders & Fiji), A J Venter (Natal Sharks & South Africa), M Connors (Northampton & Australia), J Collins (Wellington Hurricanes & New Zealand), S Harding (Otago Highlanders & New Zealand), T Randell (Otago Highlanders & New Zealand, capt). Replacements: R Ibanez (Castres & France), F Tournaire (Leicester & France), H Louw (Western Stormers & South Africa), R Strudwick (London Irish), M Robinson (Auckland Warriors & New Zealand), F Contepomi (Bristol & Argentina); D Gibson (Bristol & New Zealand)
England: D Scarbrough (Leeds); M Cueto (Sale), J Noon (Newcastle), B Johnston (Saracens), P Christophers (Bristol); D Walder (Newcastle), K Bracken (Saracens); M Worsley (London Irish), M Regan (Leeds), P Vickery (Gloucester, capt), A Codling (Harlequins), A Brown (Bristol), M Corry (Leicester), M Lipman (Bristol), C Jones (Sale). Replacements: A Titterrell (Sale), D Flatman (Saracens), H Vyvyan (Newcastle), P Anglesea (Sale), N Walshe (Sale), K Sorrell (Saracens), S Amor (Gloucester).Reuse content