Gatland can turn to stars as England prepare for trip to Cardiff

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Martin Johnson will have a tough time over the next couple of days deciding who should play against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Despite England dominating the middle of last Saturday’s Test match at Twickenham it was widely perceived that the fitness of the Welsh side was a lot better than England’s as Wales ran in 12 points to England’s three in the last 20 minutes.

It was a lacklustre performance from England and while people will point to it being the sides first game since the Six Nations, the players have been together in training since the middle of June.

England achieved victory but in a manner that would not have pleased Johnson and after experimenting with a number of positions, Saturday’s team selection is crucial if England want to know their best side entering the World Cup.

We’re likely to see a host of perceived first-teamers return to the England side for the clash at the Millennium Stadium, but Wales will be prepared and are set to be a lot stronger than the side that ran out at Twickenham.

Prop Adam Jones, full-back Lee Byrne and utility back James Hook are all available for selection and coach Warren Gatland is also hopeful that captain Matthew Rees and prop Gethin Jenkins will return to the front row.

Wales had a second-string front row out at Twickenham and it told when James Haskell crossed for his try in the first half, but should Gatland be able to recall Rees and Jenkins, England will face a much stronger pack in Cardiff.

Johnson will expect the guys he recalls for Saturday’s international to really put forward their case for a starting spot, and while many of the players recalled will be perceived first-teamers, it’s seems Johnson doesn’t know what his strongest side is.

With Lewis Moody potentially out of the World Cup, Johnson has a lot of thinking and tinkering to do between now and England’s opening World Cup game with Argentina on September 10.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.