England must step up v BaaBaas
England coach Stuart Lancaster has urged his youthful side to "step up to the plate" and prove they have that special X-factor.
England coach Stuart Lancaster has urged his youthful side to "step up to the plate" and prove they have that special X-factor to become World Cup contenders, when they face the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.
Lancaster is hoping to see the blossoming of some exciting international talent, with so many new and inexperienced faces taking on the Barbarians in a warm-up to England's Test campaign in Argentina.
Bath hooker Rob Webber, 27, capped just three times, assumes the captaincy with Harlequins' flanker Chris Robshaw "rested" from the tour, and Tom Wood on Premiership final duty with Northampton on Saturday.
The absence of so many first-choice players such as Robshaw, Toby Flood, Tom Youngs, Tom Croft and Dylan Hartley, who are either being "rested" or about to travel with the British and Irish Lions to Australia, certainly opens the door wide for the young pretenders.
Gloucester flyhalf Freddie Burns, and London Irish pair wing Marland Yarde and centre Jonathan Joseph, are three in particular Lancaster is hoping to see flourish as he plans for the 2015 World Cup in England.
"Nine of the starting XV are either 24 or under. That tells you everything about the team. They have shone in the Premiership and now have the golden opportunity to do so with their country," Lancaster said.
"It's about sticking your hand right up, stepping up to the plate and showing you have that special X-factor to thrive on the big stage. The big picture is the World Cup and they can show they want to be picked now and in the future.
"We have two tough Tests in Argentina and I want players fighting like mad to get in the side.
"Rob Webber finished the season strongly with Bath and I know his leadership qualities well. I am sure he'll show the way backed up by the other senior players in the team."
One player determined to make a big statement both today and in Argentina is 22-year-old London Wasps wing Christian Wade, who followed in Jonny Wilkinson's footsteps this week by being named both the players' 'Player of the Year' and 'Young Player of the Year'.
"It's been a real mixed season for me. Scoring all those tries was great but missing out on the Heineken (European) Cup with Wasps was disappointing, but picking up those awards and also getting the chance to go on tour with England is a wonderful end to it," said Wade.
"When you get a chance like this you have to grab it with both hands. Hopefully, I can get a try or two against Argentina and give myself the best possible chance to start the Tests."
Former England centre Mike Tindall captains the Barbarians having recently signed a new deal to remain with Gloucester next season.
And the 34-year-old player-coach will be in direct midfield opposition to several club team-mates, in outside-half Freddie Burns and centres Billy Twelvetrees and Jonny May, on Sunday.
Tindall, a member of England's 2003 World Cup-winning side, is relishing the prospect of reminding his country he has plenty to offer on the rugby field.
"I know their games and they know mine, so it should be interesting," he said of the prospect of facing his fellow Gloucester backs.
"I probably won't be showing Jonny May the outside. Jonny's special in terms of speed and his feet as well.
"The way he's performed this year has been a big step up from last year and he was impressive last year. He's got a good future with England."
England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Christian Wade, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Marland Yarde; 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Dave Attwood, 4 Joe Launchbury; 3 David Wilson, 2 Rob Webber (captain), 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Billy Vunipola, 21 Haydn Thomas, 22 Jonny May, 23 Kyle Eastmond.
Barbarians: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Mike Tindall (captain), 11 Timoci Nagusa, 10 James Hook, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Imanol Harinordoquy, 7 Jonathan Poff, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Wentzel, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 James Johnston, 2 Matthew Rees, 1 Andrea Lo Cicero.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Paul James, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Dimitri Yachvili, 22 Nick Evans, 23 Rowan Varty.
Date: Sunday, May 26
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 13.00 (12.00 GMT)
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Nigel Owens (Wales), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)