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England 57 Barbarians 26

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England 57 Barbarians 26

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Rugby

Chris Ashton regains scoring touch

My memory of the Barbarians match in 1973 is still fresh in the memory – probably because they keep replaying it to death on the ESPN classic channel. No matter, it was one of the great rugby matches and deserves its lofty reputation.

In stifling heat this was a dress rehearsal for the England team who will play South Africa in similar conditions in two weeks' time. The weather may be comparable but the Springboks will provide a much sterner test.

Not to be churlish though – this was a record score for the English against the Barbarians and they played very well throughout the game with only Owen Farrell's abomination of a kicking game to detract from the overall performance.

Two horribly sliced penalty attempts were a complete dog's breakfast and let's hope that he has got it out of his system before the real test against the South Africans' begins.

On a positive note Chris Ashton returned to try scoring ways with a wonderful hat trick and left the swallow dive in the locker room. That's where it should remain as well until Ashton has become a consistent and reliable performer. On this evidence he will get there.

Tom Johnson put in a towering performance at Flanker and the winger Wade showed electrifying pace as well as a cool head for a pass and is a terrific prospect.

The only dark clouds on the horizon for England are the injury to Tom Croft who will not travel to South Africa and the result of today's citing hearing against Manu Tuilagi who is unlikely to escape a ban.

This is going to be a gruelling test series for the England team at the end of a long season and it is hard to see them coming away with anything especially playing at altitude in Johannesburg.

Key dates for your betting diary:

May 30: Depart for South Africa.

June 9: South Africa v England (Durban):

June 13: South Africa Barbarians v England (Kimberly):

June 16: South Africa v England (Johannesburg):

June 19: S Africa Barbarians v England (Potchefstroom):

June 23: South Africa v England (Port Elizabeth):

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