England ran in eight tries en route to an ultimately comfortable 54-26 win over the South African Barbarians in a tour match at GWK Stadium in Kimberley on Wednesday.
The visitors recovered from conceding a third-minute try to lead 25-14 at halftime and four second-half tries gave the Red Roses a flattering winning margin on a clear winter afternoon in the Northern Cape capital.
An England team boasting some of the best club players in the country was expected to dominate hastily assembled semi-professionals from the second tier of the domestic Currie Cup competition.
However, only two-try eighthman Thomas Waldrom and to a lesser extent, nippy scrum-half Danny Care, raised their hands for inclusion in the match 22 for the crucial second Test against South Africa in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Leicester Tiger’s Waldrom was voted man of the match after an outstanding display in the loose and scoring a try in each half before being substituted with 12 minutes left.
Care, back in the white jersey for the first time since last August, after being arrested three times for drink driving and once for an alleged sexual assault, was a livewire operator and grabbed an opportunistic late try.
England captain and lock George Robson said: “The Barbarians offered a great challenge and I am proud of my guys, with Thomas Waldrom standing out. We had to work pretty hard for our victory today.”
However, England’s performance won little praise from recently retired South Africa lock Victor Matfield nor from former Springbok and Italy coach Nick Mallett, who were working as TV analysts.
No one except Waldrom, and possibly Care, pushed their case for inclusion in the second Test team, Matfield said.
Mallett said England coach Stuart Lancaster would not be happy that his team conceded four tries against semi-professionals, nor the lack of discipline that saw 12 penalties awarded against them.
Visiting flank James Haskell was handed a yellow card eight minutes before halftime when referee Jonathan Kaplan lost patience with the continuous infringements of the touring pack.
England will have to make at least two changes from the backline that started the first Test, with a thumb injury forcing full-back Mike Brown to return home and an eye operation preventing center Brad Barritt playing until next week.