Haskell returns for Poms

Flank James Haskell is the only change to the English team to face the Springboks.

The Wasps loose-forward replaces Tom Croft, while Leicester No 8 Jordan Crane replaces Michael Lipman in the 22.

Looking at the quality of the names on the team sheet, the question is how many of this English team would make a Lions Test XV selected tomorrow? Not many.

Where Wales rightfully have at least five of their team in the Lions’ first-choice reckoning and Mike Blair, Euan Murray and Ross Ford enhanced their reputations for the Scots, not one of the English are front-runners for Lions spots.

After the Boks’ 32-16 loss to England in 2004, Jake White said it was a case of men against boys. Even though the visitors are disrupted by injuries, the converse should apply on Saturday, with the Boks the adults in charge.

The English are a developing, naive team, and while similarly the Boks and their coaching staff have been accused of tactical naivete throughout 2008 the South Africans are a class above. Another tactical bungle from the Boks seems the only obstacle to claiming a win at Twickenham.

The Bok pack has not been dominant, but the English pack is too living off the reputation of past teams, and even the effectiveness of powerhouse loosehead Andrew Sheridan has been questioned after he came off second best against the Wallabies. Yes, the self-same Wallabies who were getting shunted back by the Boks at the end of the Tri-Nations.

Captain Steve Borthwick’s off-field management is lauded by Johnson and his coach at Saracens Eddie Jones, but it’s laughable to even compare him with Bakkies Botha or Victor Matfield on the pitch.

The loose-forward combination is unsettled, with neither Haskell or Nick Easter assured of their spots in the England team, let alone higher honours.

Wunderkind flyhalf Danny Cipriani gets the most attention from the English media and public, but after only two Tests this season his Lions credentials have rightfully been questioned. Cipriani’s defence is porous and on Saturday he should come in for some extra special attention from the Bok loose-forwards as well as Jean de Villiers. If they don’t attack his channel it will be an opportunity lost by the Boks.

This year-end tour has been about gaining a psychological advantage over the northern hemisphere rivals. The scratchy wins and the subsequent defeatist talk from Peter de Villiers has ensured the Boks haven’t achieved this, but a second-rate English team lie in wait. The Boks must finally set a marker against this bunch.

England – 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Jamie Noon, 12 Riki Flutey, 11 Ugo Monye, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Danny Care, 8 Nick Easter, 7 Tom Rees, 6 James Haskell, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Lee Mears, 1 Andrew Sheridan.

Subs: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Jordan Crane, 21 Harry Ellis, 22 Toby Flood.