London – England signalled their intention to take on the physical challenge posed by South Africa by beefing up their pack for Saturday's Test at Twickenham.
Facing the first bout of criticism in his year long stint as England coach, Stuart Lancaster overhauled his forward department Thursday as part of the six changes made to the starting team from last weekend's 20-14 loss to Australia.
Into the pack come powerful lock Joe Launchbury for his first Test start, as well as prop Alex Corbisiero, flanker Tim Wood and No. 8 Ben Morgan.
The Springboks have bullied Ireland (16-12) and Scotland (21-10) into submission in the past two weekends, and were also dominant up front in a 2-0 win in the three-test series against the English in June.
“We have picked a team that will give us the best chance of beating South Africa,” Lancaster said. “The players we have brought in to start have been training well, will bring a real motivation to make the most of their opportunity and will suit the challenge we face against a tough and physical South African team.”
Ben Youngs replaces Danny Care at scrumhalf and Mike Brown - a fullback by trade - comes in on the left wing in place of Charlie Sharples, with Lancaster fielding two No. 15s to deal with an expected aerial bombardment from South Africa.
However, it is the changes up front that reveal Lancaster's expectations regarding Saturday's match.
Much is expected of the strapping Launchbury, whose international career began impressively with two strong appearances off the bench against Australia and in the 54-12 win over Fiji on Nov. 10.
“We've put him in pressure situations in training games and he's virtually error-free,” Lancaster said of the 21-year-old Launchbury. “He's a big man with physical presence.”
It will be Wood's first start since the 2011 World Cup after overcoming a toe injury, while Lancaster will hope Morgan also brings some dynamism after the team's sluggish back-row performance against the Wallabies. Corbisiero is fit again following a knee problem.
Thomas Waldrom, Tom Johnson, Tom Palmer and Joe Marler were the forwards to make way.
South Africa will be looking to further dent the rebuilding job being attempted by Lancaster, who was brought in after England's calamitous World Cup campaign in New Zealand where things went badly wrong on and off the pitch.
He has brought passion and discipline back into the team, but the development of a young, much-changed squad remains very much a work in progress.
After the loss to Australia, though, South Africa knows England will come out hard at Twickenham.
“Having played a year of rugby over here, I know what the guys will bring on the weekend and that is something we are going to have to front up to,” Springboks flanker Francois Louw said. “I know they have taken a bit of criticism, but I do back the side.
“There will be a physical onslaught from England. They will definitely be up for it, especially at Twickenham. There is a lot of history and heritage here which the guys will use as fuel for the game, which is very exciting.”
South Africa announced an unchanged side on Wednesday for its last game of a grueling 2012.
England: Alex Goode, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown, Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Ben Morgan, Chris Robshaw (captain), Tom Wood, Geoff Parling, Joe Launchbury, Dan Cole, Tom Youngs, Alex Corbisiero.
Reserves: David Paice, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Mouritz Botha, James Haskell, Danny Care, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Reserves: Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo. – Sapa-AP