By Sarah Mockford, Rugby World Features Editor
ENGLAND GOT off to a winning start in the World Cup warm-up games at Twickenham, tries from James Haskell and Manu Tuilagi coupled with the boot of Jonny Wilkinson enough to see off Wales. But in terms of selection for New Zealand 2011, which players stood out and who hurt their chances of getting a place on the plane?
On the front foot and with Jonny Wilkinson bringing him into the game, the Leicester centre thrived. He provides a physical presence in the midfield, both in attack and defence, and looked comfortable at Test level.
Wales’ captain may be young but he knows how to get the best out of his players – by leading from the front. When his side were struggling, he stepped up his game and could have scored two tries as he inspired the comeback.
He’d been written out of most people’s World Cup squads before this game due to a dip in form and an increase in disciplinary problems, but he looked back to his best here – solid under the high ball and making great runs in attack.
The Scarlets fly-half had to step into the No 10 shirt at short notice given Stephen Jones’s injury in the warm-up, but he handled himself well, controlled the game and with Morgan Stoddart’s injury has more chance of a RWC place as he can cover full-back too.
A rare Test start these days for Wilkinson but he relished the opportunity and even looked to attack the gain-line more often than he usually would. This meant he was popping the likes of Tuilagi into holes and causing Wales problems.
Handed a late chance to start at full-back but suffered every player’s worst nightmare early in the second half. Just weeks before the World Cup he broke his leg and his dream of travelling to New Zealand is over while Wales are struggling for full-back cover.
He was given just three minutes to prove his World Cup credentials here and with Toby Flood set to start next week his chance appears to have gone. It seems Flood and Wilkinson will be England’s fly-halves in New Zealand.
The Welsh front row
Craig Mitchell did well in the Six Nations but he, Paul James and Huw Bennett were put under pressure at Twickenham, particularly for James Haskell’s try from a scrum. Bennett also needs to improve his lineout throws and Wales will have their fingers crossed that Matthew Rees recovers from his neck injury.
WORK TO DO
The lock was lauded to the high heavens last season but he was somewhat invisible at Twickenham. He needs to up his presence on the field if he’s to win one of England’s second-row berths alongside Courtney Lawes in the final 30.
It was a mixed bag from the No 8, some good work but some bad decisions. He was as physical as ever, strong in defence and made some decent charges with the ball – but he also seemed to run into his team-mates a bit too often.