You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

England players could face New Zealand in autumn Barbarians game

The Guardian logo The Guardian 25/05/2017

Eddie Jones, the England head coach looks on during the England training session held at Brighton College. © David Rogers/Getty Images Eddie Jones, the England head coach looks on during the England training session held at Brighton College. A number of England players could face New Zealand at Twickenham this autumn after all with the Barbarians hopeful Eddie Jones will agree to release a few of his prized assets to play for them on 4 November.

The All Blacks turned down the RFU’s lucrative proposal of a match against England, instead honouring their agreement to a match with the Baa-Baas to mark their 125th anniversary, denying Jones the chance to pit his side against the world champions.

England do not begin their autumn campaign until a week later against Argentina before hosting Australia and Samoa. They are scheduled to face New Zealand only once before the 2019 World Cup – in the autumn of 2018 – and while 15 members of Jones’s side will be on the British & Irish Lions tour, the opportunity for some of his players to face the All Blacks at Twickenham may be appealing to the coach. The Barbarians are also hopeful of reaching a similar agreement with Premiership clubs over their overseas names.

The Barbarians face England at Twickenham on Sunday when Alex Goode will be presented with the opportunity to prove to Jones that size does not matter. Goode has fallen out of favour with Jones since his last England appearance in November to the extent he was not even named in the squad to tour Argentina.

His continued snub is bewildering to say the least considering his form for Saracens – he scored the decisive try in the Champions Cup final against Clermont to cap a magnificent display, forcing Jones to explain his omission by saying: “Sometimes you can be a great player in a great side but not necessarily a great Test player.”

Jones has also recently claimed he needs “some more size in the backs” which may further explain the absence of Goode and the presence of uncapped wings Joe Cokanasiga and Nathan Earle on the plane to Argentina.

“There will always be a place for a ball-playing rugby player. My footwork, my ability to tackle and make breaks is still there,” Goode said. “That is a valuable asset. Wingers, since I have been playing, have only got bigger and faster and stronger. That has always been the case but I think the best backlines in the world always have a good combination of physicality, speed and good understanding. You need that I think.

“I’m lucky to be part of a great club at Saracens where we have big games. Eddie talks about playing well in those big games. I’m really happy with my form so all I can do is play well and put my best foot forward. Ultimately it comes down to Eddie’s decision – it is his opinion on whether you’re a Test player or not and I’ve got to try somehow to persuade him.”

Goode was a late call-up to the Barbarians squad but while he was tempted to say no after Saracens’ gruelling Premiership semi-final defeat by Exeter, his family connections – his late grandfather John Vallance Owen was “best mates” with the Baa-Baas president, Micky Steele-Bodger – convinced him otherwise. “My grandad always talked about the Barbarians games he saw from many years ago down in Cardiff at the Arms Park,” Goode said. “I think Micky always wanted for me to play in the Barbarians shirt. I love singing the national anthem so it will be tough [on Sunday], maybe I’ll be humming in my head.”

And despite joking that his mum, Sarah, is a French teacher, he is not about to follow Chris Ashton in making a lucrative move across the Channel any time soon. “Never say never but I love Saracens and without getting too cheesy, I love the club and they’ve done a lot for me,” Goode said. “I want to stay around as long as they’ll keep me – maybe they’ll wheel me out as the kitman one day.”

London Irish secured an instant return to the Premiership as they beat Yorkshire Carnegie 55-48 in an enthralling encounter at the Madejski Stadium.

Leading 29-18 following last week’s Championship final first-leg win at Headingley, Irish completed the job in style in front of their own fans to banish the memories of last season’s relegation with an 84-66 aggregate victory.

In an exhilarating first 20 minutes the sides traded tries in a manner more befitting sevens rugby than XVs as Canada international Ciaran Hearn and scrum-half Brendan McKibbin’s efforts for Irish were cancelled out by Seb Stegmann and Mike Mayhew.

But after an even first quarter, the hosts demonstrated the class that saw them lose just one game en route to finishing top of the regular season table as Fergus Mulchrone, Alex Lewington (twice), McKibbin and the boot of Tommy Bell helped them run riot.

Ben West, Sione Faletau, Stegmann’s second and a penalty try for the visitors at least made the scoreline respectable, while Charlie Beech and Ben Franks were shown late red cards for punching.

Facing an 11-point deficit, Carnegie desperately needed to fly out of the blocks in Reading but instead they dropped the opening kick-off and from the resulting scrum the ball was spread to Hearn, who ran through a couple of arm tackles for the easiest of tries.

Bell, who was otherwise impeccable from the tee, missed the conversion and his audacious offload attempt then failed miserably, allowing Elder to feed Stegmann for the perfect Carnegie response.

Irish’s second try came when Lewington’s neat inside offload found McKibbin running an unstoppable angle to scythe through a static defence, but Carnegie hooker Mayhew did his best impression of a scrum-half on 20 minutes as he sniped from the base of a ruck on the 22 and rumbled over to narrow the aggregate deficit to six points.

That was as good as it got for the visitors, however, as a 35-metre Bell penalty gave the Exiles breathing space, which was increased as Mulchrone jinked his way over from close range before the break.

Joe Ford slotted a Yorkshire penalty on the stroke of half-time but then Lewington scored one of the tries of the season, beating five men to score from halfway, before McKibbin burrowed over. Lewington then seized on a loose ball for his second to put the tie out of reach.

Bell booted four further penalties as Irish ran riot before Carnegie started to make the score respectable as West went over for his own close-range try and the visitors were awarded a penalty try for Tom Court’s deliberate offside.

Front-rowers Beech and Franks were shown red for punching each other as the game degenerated slightly and although Faletau and Stegmann grabbed further consolation for the visitors, it was a dream evening for Premiership-bound Irish.

More from The Guardian

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon