Eddie Jones insists England must be prepared to face the unexpected when they seek to avert a four-match losing run by toppling the Barbarians at Twickenham.
The curtain raiser to next month’s tour of South Africa will be held without players from Aviva Premiership finalists Exeter and Saracens, giving Jones the opportunity to experiment.
Elliot Daly is given a first run at full-back, Danny Cipriani is included on the bench and Tom Curry is tested at openside, while four uncapped players start in Henry Trinder, Jack Singleton, Elliott Stooke and Zach Mercer.
Barbarians coach Pat Lam has pledged to honour their swashbuckling ethos and Jones knows the danger they pose to his ambition of reversing the sequence of three consecutive defeats endured in the NatWest Six Nations.
“It’s always a bit more difficult to prepare for the Barbarians. You have to expect the unexpected because we don’t know exactly how they’re going to play,” Jones said.
“We’re in the same position and we have a lot of new players in the squad. It’s one of those interesting games where neither side knows much about the other.
“We need a good hit out. We haven’t played together. We need to know that the things we have been working on in training we are able to execute in the heat of the game.
“We’ve been practising a number of key areas of the game that we felt after the Six Nations that we need to work on – our efficiency at the set-piece, our efficiency at the breakdown, developing more creative threats in our attack and being smarter in defence.
“We’ve worked really hard on those four things and we’re hoping to see that come out in the right way against the Barbarians.”
Lam has named a strong line-up featuring Chris Ashton at full-back, Finn Russell at fly-half and Justin Tipuric at openside.
Ashton’s return to Twickenham is particularly poignant given he is facing the nation for whom he won 39 caps before joining Toulon having been deemed surplus to requirements by Jones.
“It would be amazing to be part of something – even on a smaller scale – like the Barbarians’ 1973 try against New Zealand,” said Ashton, who has set the Top 14 alight on his debut season in France.
“We definitely have the team to be able to do something like that. We have the experience in the team.
“The flair and the skill is as good as I have seen in a Baabaas team for many a year.”
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