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England v Barbarians will be a great event but let’s not pretend it’s something that it isn’t

The issues surrounding England’s first test against New Zealand in June have been well documented, but what has not really been examined is the equally controversial fixture against the Barbarians this Sunday.

Leicester Tigers’ Graham Kitchener, who has been excellent this year, has been announced as the England captain for a game that appears to have somehow steered clear of scrutiny because of the daft scheduling of the first Test in New Zealand.

It is important to say that the Barbarians are a brilliant rugby institution and that fixtures with and against them should be encouraged, and it is equally important to state what an excellent and exciting squad they have assembled for Sunday’s clash.

What is not clear is why the fixture is being labelled as ‘England’ v the Barbarians. It is quite clearly the England Saxons v the Barbarians. Furthermore, this is not a recent discovery; it has been clear since the day that this was pencilled into the fixture list that it would be a ‘Saxons’ squad.

If players for the Premiership Final on Saturday were never going to be allowed to play the first test, then nor were players in this game a day later. Furthermore – what chance do players in this squad have of ousting any of their slightly more illustrious colleagues featuring in that final from the additional touring party that will be named on Monday to link up with the 30 already in New Zealand?

That is not to say that the fixture against the Barbarians has no value, it does. It is hugely important to test out this slightly younger, or at least more inexperienced, group of players in front of a packed Twickenham against top class opposition.

The likes of Elliot Daly, Sam Hill, and Henry Slade are surely future England internationals, and it is important to see them in that international environment, while it is an excellent opportunity for the Jonathan Joseph’s and Charlie Sharples’ of this world to show the England management that their time is not over.

However the fans should not be conned by the organisers into believing that this is an ‘England’ fixture. It is a Saxons fixture and should be sold as such. Eleven of the 23 were in the Saxons sides for their fixtures against the Irish Wolfhounds and Scotland A earlier in the season, the evidence is clear.

That said, it should still be an exciting game. The England side is packed with exciting players and there is a lot of pace and guile in the side selected. The Barbarians have selected a hugely talent side as well – the prospect of Juan Martin Hernandez alone ought to be enough to be able to sell out Twickenham.

It ought to be a cracker, and a glimpse into England’s future. Hopefully some of the squad will get to go down to New Zealand for the rest of the tour, but call the game what it seemingly is – an England Saxons fixture sold as an England fixture to make more money.

England Squad:

15 Elliot Daly (London Wasps) 
14 Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) 
13 Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby) 
12 Sam Hill (Exeter Chiefs) 
11 Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby) 
10 Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) 
9 Joe Simpson (London Wasps); 1 Ross Harrison (Sale Sharks) 
2 Rob Buchanan (Harlequins) 
3 Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins) 
4 Michael Paterson (Sale Sharks) 
5 Graham Kitchener (Leicester Tigers, captain) 
6 Jamie Gibson (Leicester Tigers) 
7 Luke Wallace (Harlequins) 
8 Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs).

Replacements: 16 Tommy Taylor (Sale Sharks) 
17 Fraser Balmain (Leicester Tigers) 
18 Will Collier (Harlequins) 
19 Charlie Matthews (Harlequins) 
20 James Gaskell (Sale Sharks) 
21 Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby) 
22 Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby) 
23 Rob Miller (Sale Sharks).

Barbarians:

Backs: Jimmy Cowan (Gloucester & New Zealand), Tomas Cubelli (Belgrano & Argentina), Hosea Gear (Toulouse & New Zealand), Juan Martin Hernandez (Racing Metro & Argentina), Brock James (Clermont), James O’Connor (London Irish & Australia), Rene Ranger (Montpellier & New Zealand), Joe Rokocoko (Bayonne & New Zealand), Benson Stanley (Clermont & New Zealand), Francois Trinh-Duc (Montpellier & France).

Forwards: Julien Brugnaut (Racing Metro & France), Schalk Ferreira (Toulouse), Mamuka Gorgodze (Montpellier & Georgia), Andrew Hore (Highlanders & New Zealand), Juandre Kruger (Racing Metro & South Africa), Alexandre Lapandry (Clermont & France), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (Lyon & Argentina), Nahuel Lobo (Montpellier & Argentina), Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster & Ireland), Ti’i Paulo (Clermont & Samoa), Sona Taumalolo (Perpignan & Tonga), Joe Tekori (Toulouse & Samoa), Roger Wilson (Ulster & Ireland), Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont & Georgia).

By Angus Savage

@AngusSavageXV

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