Battle for Test place lost, says Olly Barkley

DISAPPOINTED Olly Barkley broke from the party line yesterday and revealed he has no chance of forcing his way into England's Test team for Saturday's Cook Cup showdown with Australia.

England manager Martin Johnson has insisted from the outset of this five-match Antipodean tour that Test selection is wide open and that every member of the 44-man squad has an equal chance.

But Barkley goes into today's clash with the Australian Barbarians in the knowledge that Shontayne Hape has already been lined up to start against the Wallabies at inside centre.

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Barkley's focus now is on continuing the sparkling form he showed for Bath in the closing weeks of the season and giving Johnson no option but to include him for the second Test in Sydney.

"The Test team is the one you all want to be in and I'm not going to lie, I'm disappointed not to be in the side," said Barkley. "The Test side is organised for Saturday and to play two games of Test match intensity from Tuesday to Saturday is not overly realistic at this stage of the season.

"The selection was made four or five days ago so I had a while to get my head around it. I'm not one to dwell on what's not going to be so I'll be doing everything tomorrow night to stake a claim for a place in the second Test. It's a long tour, a week's a long time in sport so we'll see what happens."

Barkley's return to form and fitness after Christmas led directly to Hape being squeezed out of the Bath side but he is not surprised at Johnson's desire to cast his eye over the former New Zealand rugby league international in a Test environment.

"Shontayne has been involved in a few squads for the last six months now and he was due to play a large role for the Six Nations had he not got ill," said Barkley.

"I had an inkling they would want to see what he is capable of at Test level and he deserves his shot. He's played very well at Bath when he has played.

"I'm still disappointed but he gets my full support. He's a great bloke and a very talented guy."

A Test midfield of Hape and Mike Tindall would appear a great deal less potent than England's centre pairing tonight of Barkley and Mathew Tait.

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England's shadow side also includes Charlie Hodgson at fly-half while recent Test regulars Delon Armitage and Ugo Monye feature in the back three.

England (to play Australian Barbarians tonight): D Armitage; M Banahan, M Tait, O Barkley, U Monye; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth; D Flatman, L Mears, D Wilson, G Parling, D Attwood, D Ward-Smith, H Fourie, C Robshaw (captain). Replacements: George Chuter, Paul Doran-Jones, Courtney Lawes, Joe Worsley, Paul Hodgson, Shane Geraghty, Dominic Waldouck.