England v Barbarians, Twickenham, May 29
Narraway set for World Cup audition
May 27, 2011
Luke Narraway is hoping to translate club form onto the international stage © Getty Images
Luke Narraway will skipper England for the first time on Saturday as they take on the Barbarians at Twickenham, and the Gloucester No.8 is well aware of the opportunity to press his claims so close to the Rugby World Cup.
The 27-year-old, who won the last of his seven England caps in 2009, will lead a XV featuring five uncapped players, including Exeter's Tom Johnson and Sale's Carl Fearns, who start alongside him in an inexperienced loose trio.
Narraway will go head-to-head with the Italy captain Sergio Parisse while Toulon flankers Joe Van Niekerk and George Smith complete a Barbarians back-row that would match any in the world - the perfect stage for Narraway and his team-mates to impress the management.
"It's not bad, is it?" he said. "If we're talking about a game where people want to prove themselves, prove how well they're playing and their form, in the back-row you're not going to come up against much better.
"So if you can perform against Parisse, Van Niekerk and Smith then I'm sure you can perform against any back row in the world. They have quality players throughout but we've got a very exciting player in Tom Johnson who has taken the Premiership by storm. He got my vote for player of the season.
"It will be great to play alongside him and see how he goes and then we've got a very abrasive player in Carl Fearns. We're not going to take a step backwards, we're going to get in the mix and see how we get on."
Harlequins prop Joe Marler and Worcester lock Graham Kitchener are the other uncapped players in the England pack, while Narraway's Gloucester team-mate Henry Trinder has been named at outside centre.
Two players leaving Kingsholm this summer, the prop Paul Doran-Jones and lock Dave Attwood, are both live World Cup contenders and have a point to prove this weekend. Ugo Monye and James Simpson-Daniel start on the wings and Mike Brown gets a run at fullback after an impressive season for Quins.
"Within the squad everyone's got their own ambitions, whether that's Henry Trinder coming in for the very first time trying to make an impression and feeling very excited, or whether it's myself or Simpson-Daniel or Ugo who are fighting tooth and nail to try to get into the World Cup squad," Narraway said.
"Everyone knows what's on the line and while that's an underlying tone, this week is all about the Barbarians. It's about performing well so everyone can have an opportunity to show how good they are."
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