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Sam Burgess and Brad Barritt to face Wales as Jonathan Joseph misses out

Published 23/09/2015

Sam Burgess is to be paired with Brad Barritt in the centres for England's clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday
Sam Burgess is to be paired with Brad Barritt in the centres for England's clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday

England are set to overhaul their midfield by bringing in Sam Burgess and Owen Farrell for Saturday's critical World Cup showdown at Twickenham with the aim of meeting Wales' power game head-on.

Burgess and Brad Barritt are ready to forge a new centre combination after Jonathan Joseph was ruled out of the Pool A clash with a chest injury, while Farrell has been picked ahead of George Ford at fly-half.

Joseph is continuing treatment on the pectoral muscle problem suffered during Friday's bonus-point victory over Fiji and England retain hope that he still has a role to play in the group stage, Press Association Sport understands.

The Farrell, Burgess, Barritt axis will provide a muscular presence in the looming gainline war at Twickenham and their inclusion extends beyond the desire to simply contain the Welsh.

Press Association Sport understands the selection is born out of a belief that the game must initially be taken to Wales using powerful ball carriers with the ultimate objective of wearing down Warren Gatland's men.

The knowledge that Wales will use a defensive system that deploys 14 players in a line with the full-back patrolling the space behind means England must force a path through rather than seek to circumnavigate the wall of red shirts.

Influential in the management's thinking is the 21-16 victory in Cardiff in February, a highlight of Stuart Lancaster's reign that was headlined by Joseph's superb try but was ultimately founded on the front foot momentum generated by their ball carriers.

Once the heavyweight collisions have unfolded and the match enters the decisive final quarter, reinforcements are set to be summoned from the bench in the manner that proved so successful in the 35-11 victory over Fiji.

The selection of Burgess, who has played only 112 minutes of Test rugby after converting from league 10 months ago, is viewed as a gamble by many given he will be lining-up opposite veteran British and Irish Lion Jamie Roberts, but England's belief in the 26-year-old is steadfast after witnessing his development throughout the summer.

Burgess' promotion to the starting XV represents an enormous gamble, however, even when considering his exposure to big game occasions with the South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia's National Rugby League.

Any flaws are sure to be exposed by 70-cap battering ram Roberts, who will have watched with interest how he strayed out of position in defence on his debut against France last month.

Supporters will point to the eye-catching 20-minute cameo against Fiji in which Burgess's power and direct lines of running restored English momentum, but Wales are a different proposition to the tiring Islanders.

Henry Slade, the 22-year-old Exeter playmaker who impressed on his debut against France, does not appear to have been considered for selection due to his inexperience.

While the RBS 6 Nations victory at the Millennium Stadium helped shape Lancaster's thinking in selection, it is the defeat at the same venue two years earlier that is fuelling Tom Wood's desire to topple Wales.

England were routed 30-3 in a chastening final day to the Championship that saw them denied the Grand Slam and the result continues to haunt Wood, even though redemption came in February

"This match stands out and we don't try and build it up," the Northampton blindside flanker said.

"On the back of that 2013 loss we have earmarked this fixture a little bit because our pride was severely damaged that day and we took an absolute pasting in the press.

"I don't think we played that badly and were in the fight for 50 minutes, but unfortunately the dam broke and the floodgates opened. It was disappointing.

"A lot of us paid a heavy price in Lions selection for that summer. We suffered that day and don't want to go through it again. It is something anyone who was there that day has never forgotten.

"It will live with us and hopefully inspire us to play this weekend."

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