Byline: PETER JACKSON
ENGLAND have ruled Olly Barkley out of their duel against South Africaand put their faith in Andy Farrell's tactical acumen to handle the Test of hislife.
Farrell is promoted from the bench. And with skipper Phil Vickery suspended,Martin Corry is reunited with the captaincya post he last held at Twickenham 10 months ago when a Springbok victoryresulted in Andy Robinson's exit as head coach.
It was another confusing day for England in their efforts to defend the WorldCup. Farrell, according to no less an authority than the
RFU's director of rugby, Rob Andrew, will start at No 10, a number which he hasnever worn for Saracens in the Premiership.
It is a position better known to his midfield partner Mike Catt, even though helast began a match there in 1999. Farrell operated occasionally as a stand-offin his rugby league days but was usually a loose forward.
The latest batch of alterations increased Springbok suspicions that it was allpart of a plot which would result in Jonny Wilkinson materialising at the Stadede France tomorrow night.
Although head coach Brian Ashton refused to rule him out on Tuesday, Andrew didso yesterday by which time the South Africans had indulged in all manner ofcloak-and-dagger stuff to keep their starting XV under wraps.
Coach Jake White told confidantes he expected Wilkinson to play and drew up acontingency plan for that eventuality.
Fearful of England's kicking game and Wilkinson's capacity to bombardopposition wings, White delayed naming his team until the 48-hour deadline lastnight. The side will certainly be without Schalk Burger despite his appealagainst a four-match ban for a dangerous tackle on Samoan scrum half JuniorPolu.
White said: 'I want to be absolutely sure about who England are picking beforeI commit. The players know where they stand.' That was more than their coachcould say about whom they would be facing. On Tuesday England reserved theirlast place on the bench for A N Other and yesterday White, referring toWilkinson's honour for winning the last World Cup, joked: 'Maybe they shouldhave marked it down as O B E.' The subsequent choice of Mathew Taitin place of Farrelland Peter Richards, a scrum half who also plays across the back division, amongthe subs did not stop White from smelling a rat.
Ruan Pienaar, a better defensive wing than J P Pietersen, has been alerted to alate call. Pienaar said: 'Jake is expecting England to kick at us. So he'swarned me that I might play. If I do, it is going to be quite a challenge.' Itwill be nothing compared to Farrell's, not least because he and he alone willbe responsible for kicking the goals which, given England's lack of tries,would appear to offer them the best way of springing a shock. …