Sunday, 28 May 2017

England v Barbarians

Podcast Episode - 14

England vs The Barbarians

Pre Game:
It feels like the 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign is finally underway. Lots of newbies, a buzz about the squad with Lions selection surprises, senior players away on tour and a strong Barbarians squad that includes two big England question marks with points to prove in Alex Goode and Steffon Armitage. With a total of almost 1000 international caps between them, the Baba's are by no means short on experience particularly when compared with the 8 uncapped starters and 7 uncapped finishers in the England squad.

This game sets the scene for a number of interesting tests including key debutants to look out for in Sam Underhill, Alex Lozowski and  Nathan Earle. Also, with just one cap to his name, Elis Genge will be keen to show why that single cap doesn't do him justice as he makes his on field plea to Eddie Jones.

Big tests for the senior players include the return of Chris Robshaw, instrumental in the Grand Slam Six Nations, and Australia tour series white wash, and with the added pressure of having to guide the other 7 forwards (4 caps between them) at Twickenham from his back row position as co-captain, he'll be looking to put down a marker and remind Eddie and the rest of the world, why he's the man for the 6 shirt. This will also be a big test for Fly-Half George Ford as he takes on the other half of the co-captaincy duties at the back. Owen Farrell is normally outside him, offering natural leadership, but George will be the man to call the game this time around with Owen on Lions duty so a great opportunity for him.

Notable absentees include Harlequins centre and U-20 sensation, Joe Marchant, ruled out with a toe injury, Northampton prop, Paul hill, out with ongoing neck problems and Denny Solomona, the premiership 'try machine', is out for this game and looking doubtful for the tour. 

This is of course an un-capped game, but a great opportunity for some of the youngsters to make their mark ahead of the tour to Argentina, where caps will be on the line and a number of debuts will be awarded.

The Line-Up (caps)

1. Ellis Genge (1)
2. Jack Singleton (0)
3. Will Collier (0)

4. Charlie Ewels (3)
5. Nick Isiekwe (0)

6. Chris Robshaw (55)
7. Sam Underhill (0)
8. Josh Beaumont (0)

9. Danny Care (71)
10. George Ford (35)

11. Jonny May (25)
12. Alex Lozowski (0)
13. Sam Jones (0)
14. Nathan Earle (0)
15. Mike Brown (60)

16. George McGuigan (0)
17. Ross Harrison (0)
18. Jamal Ford-Robinson (0)
19. Tom Ellis (0)
20. Ben Curry (0)
21. Mark Wilson (0)
22. Richard Wigglesworth (27)
23. Mike Haley (0)

First Half

In classic Baba's style, the first half got off to a rapid start with the ball being chucked about like it was a seven's match, the young England boys did well to stem the flow as breaks were made from behind the barbarian try line, sometimes carry as much as 80m. Definitely an eye-opener for many of these guys, but England had a very different game plan. This needed to be treated like any other test match, and to be fair to these boys, after an opening 10/15 minutes, they settled down, Nathan Earle showing his electric pace to finish off a superb try and the opening points in the game. Against the run of play for sure, but it settled them all and some of the rugby produced in the second quarter was outstanding all things considered. The Baba's always looked dangerous, but the problem with their style of rugby in the modern game, is that there's just no room for errors so time and time again the found themselves 8, 9 10 phases down before mistakes were made and possession lost.

Nathan Earle showed himself as more than just a speedster on the outside with strong, physical defensive performances, great awareness and of course the pace we've come to expect from England wingers - he definitely made Eddie take note. Other strong performances came in from Ellis Genge, never taking a backward step and hovering on the line of taking things too far, a trait that (as long as it remains legal) we know Eddie Jones is a big fan of.

Shortly before half-time, head injuries to both Alex Lozowski and Sam Underhill and the obligatory HIA's resulted in changes being made - enter Ben Curry (of 'The Curry Twins'). Moments later and Mike Brown was also walked from the pitch (all be it under protest) for an HIA of his own, making way for Richard Wigglesworth at full-back/scrum-half, though it didn't last long as Mike returned clearly unscathed unlike his young team mates.

England went in at the half 13-0 with a converted try and 2 Penalties from George Ford

Second Half

The Barbarians got off to a flyer with Adam Ashley-Cooper touching down in the corner after being put in space by Alex Goode. Ian Madigan converted and we appeared to have a game on. But the Baba's didn;t account for a young, 18 year old Ben Curry. In just 45 minutes of rugby, he produced a man-of-the-match worthy performance as the turn-over machine stole possession away form the Baba's time and time again. His total lack of fear and refusal to back down inspiring as he held back French legend and Baba's captain Thierry Dusautoir before turning his attention to the mammoth "Samoan Joe" Tekori - literally twice his size - respect!

Joe later touched down himself (also converted) but with Jeremy Thrush's debatably disallowed try not counting, that was it for the scoreboard on the Barbarian side. Late try's from Nick Isiekwe and Danny Care, plus a third penalty from George Ford allowed the home side to walk in the victors by 28-14.



Conclusion

Some great individual performances that will have Eddie taking note coming from Nathan Earle, Ellis Genge and Ben Curry in particular and an all-round 'hats-off' performance from an incredibly in-experienced England side. sadly, two of the pre-match 'ones-to-watch' in Alex Lozowski and Sam Underhill are now looking unlikely to head to Argentina following the head injuries that saw them both leave the pitch in the first half - more bad news for Eddie, but an opportunity for Ben Curry and with his brother Tom waiting in the wings, thats sure to be a hell of a match up.

As we now know that Argentina could be one of our key hurdles in the World Cup, all eyes are on the 2 test tour that kicks off on 10th June as we get our first look at what we might expect in 2019. For many of these youngsters it will be the ultimate proving ground and with England regulars away on Lions duty, there;s a definite opportunity to impress. In one or two positions, there should be some slightly apprehensive senior England players - what a great problem to have.

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