What the English newspapers are saying ahead of the Test at Twickenham on Saturday.
Another day in London, another injury setback for England. After a mild start to the week, the foul weather has moved in over the English capital, and Stuart Lancaster’s mood will be just as dark this morning. No 12 Kyle Eastmond has recovered sufficiently from illness and will be considered for Saturday’s Test. However, the latest news from the England camp is that winger Semesa Rokoduguni has been ruled out with a thigh injury and will be replaced by Anthony Watson in the starting side.
‘Roko blow ruins the England game plan’ laments the Daily Mail. Chris Foy says Lancaster’s plans to field an unchanged starting XV against the Springboks have been shattered. That said, Foy speaks about Eastmond’s recovery, and wonders if it wouldn’t be better to start George Ford and Owen Farrell at 10 and 12 with the aim of strengthening England’s kicking game.
‘Watson profits from deduction’ says the less dramatic headline in today’s Times. Alex Lowe also questions the wisdom of persisting with a 10-12-13 combination of Farrell, Eastmond, and Brad Barritt. ‘After Jonny May’s blistering try [against the All Blacks last Saturday], England struggled to get their wings involved in attack, whereas in the Six Nations, when Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell operated together in midfield, they had more success in moving the ball wide’. In another article, Lowe focuses on Barritt and the perception that he is a one-dimensional Test player. Assistant coach Mike Catt is quizzed on the subject, and states that Barritt will test the Bok defence with his attacking play.
The Daily Telegraph has run quotes from the South African-born player. ‘I am more than a stopper, says maligned Barritt’ is the title of Mick Cleary’s piece in today’s edition. Barritt is typically a 12 rather than a 13, and there are doubts that he can offer much attacking impetus in the latter channel. Cleary laments the fact that England have failed to settle on or develop a great midfield combination since the days of Mike Tindall and Will Greenwood. While the writer notes that Barritt does the basics well, he points out that the Eastmond-Barritt partnership ‘has the air of a stop-gap arrangement with so many injuries and the tailing-off in form of Billy Twelvetrees.’
‘Barritt keen to neutralise Springbok threat and demonstrate some new home truths’ reads the headline in today’s Guardian. Robert Kitson says Barritt has ‘a reputation as the best midfield tackler in the country’. There is talk of Barritt making more of an attacking statement, but it’s interesting to note that Kitson feels Eastmond and Barritt kept opposite numbers Sonny Bill Williams and Conrad Smith ‘quiet’ last Saturday.
By Jon Cardinelli