Tim Hart looks back at the England v Wales match on Saturday and says which players have guaranteed a seat on the plane to New Zealand and who will be planning their summer holidays.
It wasn’t exactly a classic but then that wasn’t what we were expecting from the first Rugby World Cup warm-up match between England and Wales. The scoreline, although close, is not overly significant with both sides just coming out of hibernation and nowhere near playing at their full potential yet.
That’s why the comparison between England v Wales and the New Zealand v Australia Tri-Nations match earlier in the day doesn’t work. The Wallabies and the All Blacks were playing a full-blooded match in the biggest tournament in the Southern Hemisphere. England and Wales on the other hand were playing their first game after two months of gruelling and intensive training. It would be unfair, and frankly wrong, to compare the two games.
It was a chance for players from both sides to show why they should go for the World Cup. But who have booked their seats on the plane to New Zealand after Saturday’s match?
For England there is no doubt Jonny Wilkinson will be going to his fourth World Cup. The 32-year-old fly-half impressed in his first start for England since the 15-15 draw with Scotland in March 2010. Wilkinson showed how a number 10 can control a game as he used his distribution and pin-point kicking to keep Wales on the back foot for large periods of the match.
He also set up Manu Tuilagi for his first try and even though it was the Leicester centre’s England debut the rapturous applause he received when he came off shows how he is a dead cert for Martin Johnson’s squad.
James Haskell played at number 8 and he showed why many are calling for him to replace Nick Easter in the pack. Haskell was the best player on the pitch in the first half and capped off his performance with a try. Matt Stevens made a solid return to the side after a three year absence and he will be welcomed back into the fold.
The likes of Danny Care, Tom Croft, Dylan Hartley and Tom Palmer are also odds on to go having had a very good Six Nations Championship earlier this year. Delon Armitage will also be on his way to New Zealand as he displayed the swagger he had when he first burst on to the scene in 2008.
One player who should not get a seat on the plane is Simon Shaw. The 37-year-old’s longevity is brilliant but the currently unattached lock just looked too old. However, Johnson will probably pick him due to his experience.
Captain Lewis Moody is also a doubt after ‘tweaking’ his ankle but he will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness.
But that is not as big a blow as Morgan Stoddart’s injury is for Wales. The Scarlets fullback is Wales’ first casualty and will miss the World Cup after breaking his leg.
George North scored two tries and is already looking at the tourist attractions in Auckland along with Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips and Sam Warburton.
Rhys Priestland did well at fly-half as he deputised for Stephen Jones who got injured in the warm up but he still has work to do. The same goes for Dan Lydiate who looked flat footed all too often. Lloyd Burns and Ryan Bevington featured in the second-half but they are all but planning their summer holidays already.
They will be hoping to get another chance to prove themselves in Cardiff on Saturday when we do it all again.
On the Plane: Delon Armitage, Jonny Wilkinson, Manu Tuilagi, Mark Cueto, Danny Care, Chris Ashton, Toby Flood, Shontayne Hape, Mike Tindall, Ben Youngs, Ben Foden, Matt Stevens, Dylan Hartley, Tom Palmer, Tom Croft, James Haskell, Lee Mears, Dan Cole, Nick Easter, Courtney Lawes, Andrew Sheridan, Steve Thompson.
Passport on standby: Matt Banahan, Riki Flutey, Charlie Hodgson, Ugo Monye, Lewis Moody, Alex Corbisiero, Simon Shaw, Louis Deacon, David Wilson, Richard Wigglesworth.
Work to do: Charlie Sharples, Mouritz Botha, Joe Simpson, Paul Doran-Jones, Hendre Fourie, Tim Payne, Chris Robshaw.
On the Plane: George North, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams, Mike Phillips, James Hook, Stephen Jones, Lee Byrne, Leigh Halfpenny, Richie Rees, Andrew Bishop, Paul James, Huw Bennett, Craig Mitchell, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Luke Charteris, Matthew Rees, Gethin Jenkins, Ryan Jones,
Passport on Standby: Rhys Priestland, Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau. Tavis Knoyle, Scott Williams, Aled Brew, Richard Hibbard, Scott Andrews, Adam Jones, John Yapp, Rob McCusker, Andy Powell, Jonathan Thomas, Martyn WIlliams,
Work to do: Lloyd Burns, Ryan Bevington, Gavin Henson, Lou Reed, Justin Tipuric, Josh Turnbull, James Tovey,
Injured: Morgan Stoddart.
Tim Hart is a freelance journalist who works for Reuters Sport and ITV Sport. He is also a compulsive Tweeter and you can follow him @Timwellspent