Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Nick Easter will skipper England against the Baa-Baas in the MasterCard Trophy clash at Twickenham, k.o. 5pm, in the absence of Lewis Moody. The Leicester flanker is unavailable as he plays with the Tigers against Saracens in the Guinness Premiership final on Saturday.
And in a reshuffled side, Easter is one just of 10 survivors from the squad that finished the RBS 6 Nations in Paris.
But the real headline grabber is a start for Charlie Hodgson, Sale Sharks fly-half, who has not played for England since 2008.
Hodgson has fallen from favour in recent years, and critics thought he had kicked his last chance on the international stage firmly into touch.
However, Johnson has given him another go - aruguably at the expense of Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler, who is in the Saxons squad but is surely a better option at 10?
Jonny Wilkinson, Hodgson's main rival at stand-off, is not in the side after collapsing with an injury in the Amlin Cup final last Sunday, and Toby Flood is also unavailable due to the Guinness Premiership final.
But there is a refreshing number of uncapped players blended with experience in the 22 man team.
Hodgson lines up with uncapped centre Shontayne Hape (Bath Rugby), Mike Tindall is Hape's partner at outside centre and there is an exciting back three of Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks) and David Strettle (Harlequins), who returns after a two year absence.
The forwards include uncapped prop Jon Golding (Newcastle Falcons) and lock Dave Attwood (Gloucester Rugby), with Dan Ward-Smith (London Wasps) on the bench. Tight head prop Paul Doran-Jones makes his first appearance in England colours since his debut against Argentina last November and uncapped Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson takes a seat on the bench.
However, there is no place in the 22 for Northampton wing Chris Ashton, and Bath's form centre, Olly Barkley, is only a replacement.
Despite that, I'm pretty happy with this team. The game against the Baa-Baas is a non-cap game and gives the England management the chance to mix things up a bit.
And it looks like they have grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
My only real worry is the selection of Hodgson at fly-half. I'm still beating the "Stephen Myler for England" drum. It's a real shame he's only in the second-string Saxons. In fact, I might launch a campaign...
England Team to face the Barbarians
15 Ben Foden (Northampton Saints)
14 Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks)
13 Mike Tindall (Gloucester Rugby)
12 Shontayne Hape (Bath Rugby)
11 David Strettle (Harlequins)
10 Charlie Hodgson (Sale Sharks)
9 Danny Care (Harlequins)
1 Jon Golding (Newcastle Falcons)
2 Steve Thompson (CA Brive)
3 Paul Doran-Jones (Gloucester Rugby)
4 Dave Attwood (Gloucester Rugby)
5 Tom Palmer (Stade Francais)
6 James Haskell (Stade Francais)
7 Steffon Armitage (London Irish)
8 Nick Easter (Harlequins) CAPTAIN
16 Lee Mears (Bath Rugby)
17 Tim Payne (London Wasps)
18 Dan Ward-Smith (London Wasps)
19 Joe Worsley (London Wasps)
20 Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
21 Olly Barkley (Bath Rugby)
22 Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)
But what do you think?