NZ Maori v England, Napier, June 23
Barritt and Dowson handed starts
June 22, 2010

Saracens centre Brad Barritt and Northampton No.8 Phil Dowson will start for England against the New Zealand Maori in Napier on Wednesday.

Both players were late arrivals in the senior ranks after being called up as injury replacements from the Saxons squad at the Churchill Cup. Dowson, who was Saxons captain, featured off the bench in England's midweek victory over the Australian Barbarians after replacing Hendre Fourie in the squad. Barritt only landed in Sydney on Friday and he has replaced Olly Barkley in England's midweek midfield, where he partners Mathew Tait.

Manager Martin Johnson had challenged both men to use their unexpected opportunity in tomorrow's Napier clash to press their claims for inclusion in the 32-man elite squad due to be named in July.

"This was a great chance to get them in," said Johnson. "When you are picking a squad there are always some players who are unlucky to miss out who could have come easily. This is an opportunity for those guys to play. You are always disappointed to get injuries but this has worked out for us in some regards in that we get to look at them at the highest level.

"When we got Brad we thought, 'Let's not bring him all this way to sit on the bench'. It was the same for Phil. We wanted to give him a start. They are good guys and were unlucky to miss out, frankly. They are bright enough to know they get a good chance tomorrow."

Barritt is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Mike Catt, who was also born in South Africa and finished his playing career this season as hero of the English game. "Both my grandparents are English and my grandfather played for English universities at fly-half. He has always wanted me to play for England," said Barritt. "I can understand the debate because people want to see guys who have come through the system.

"I have strong English roots and a lot of my extended family, aunts and uncles live in England. I haven't just chosen a country and moved over there. I actually attended an England Under-19 camp shortly after school. I was very close to joining Bath University.

"I was told I was unlucky not to be here in the first place and this is a great opportunity for me to put forward my cause going into the new season. Getting into the elite squad would be the idea. The coaches have shown a lot of faith in me by putting me straight into the team and I want to repay that with a good performance.

"There are a few players knocking on the number 12 door so it is a case of me showing what I can do here. There are two different schools of thought for inside centre - one is that you should have a big, ball-carrying 12 and the other is the Australian approach of using a ball-player. Add in a decent defensive game and I think I can perform both types of role."

Tait, the versatile Sale Sharks back, had been set to play on the wing but he will start at outside centre after Dominic Waldouck failed to recover from an ankle injury. With Matt Banahan suspended and Ugo Monye injured, Northampton wing Chris Ashton is pressed into action again just four days after scoring in England's Test victory over Australia in Sydney. But prop Dan Cole, scrum-half Ben Youngs and fullback Ben Foden are all primed to come off the bench.

"We thought about playing Tait on the wing but with Dom not making it he goes to 13 and it is a good opportunity for Chris to back up from the Test match," said Johnson. "It is disappointing we can't play Dom because he looked good last week. He has worked hard since last Tuesday and the physios have taken it badly that they haven't been able to get him right. The travel meant he lost a day of physio. It is a pity."

Danny Care gets a chance to put the pressure back on Youngs, who took his place at scrum-half for the second Test and produced an outstanding performance as England drew the series. Harlequins flanker Chris Robshaw will be captain as England's midweek side look to go unbeaten on tour after a draw and a win against the Australian Barbarians.

The Maori beat Ireland on Friday night and the fixture against England caps their centenary celebrations. "We are not here to make up the numbers. We are here to win," said Johnson. "The bulk of this team have played well against the Australian Barbarians. They came back from points down in Perth and improved markedly for the second game and won that. This is their Test match."

England team to play the New Zealand Maori at McLean Park Stadium on Wednesday; kick-off 8.35am BST:

D Armitage (London Irish); D Strettle (Harlequins), M Tait (Sale Sharks), B Barritt (Saracens), C Ashton (Northampton); C Hodgson (Sale Sharks), D Care (Harlequins); D Flatman (Bath), G Chuter (Leicester), P Doran-Jones (Gloucester), D Attwood (Gloucester), G Parling (Leicester), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), S Armitage (London Irish), P Dowson (Northampton).

Replacements: R Webber (Wasps), D Cole (Leicester), D Ward-Smith (Wasps), J Haskell (Stade Francais), B Youngs (Leicester), S Geraghty (Northampton), B Foden (Northampton).


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