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Expect big performances as competition for Test spots hots up

Phil Edwards Posted 7th June 2010 view comments

Greetings from Perth, one of the most remote cities in the world and, as it happens, one of the most expensive.

Thanks to a recent resurgence in the mining industry of Western Australia, and the fact that pitmen here are paid vast sums of money, it now costs six quid for a coffee in the England team hotel.

Last night, Martin Johnson and his coaches invited the media to an Irish pub across the road and generously offered to foot the bill for an evening's libation.

Thirsty work: Johnson (right) makes sure his squad has drinks to hand

Thirsty work: Johnson (right) makes sure his squad has drinks to hand

Owing to the fact that journalists are often thirsty animals, and the fact that three beers set you back the same as three courses at Langan's, the bar bill apparently cost the RFU close to what they spent redeveloping the south stand at Twickenham!

At the entrance to bars and night-clubs (so they tell me) security is more advanced than it is at the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.

Every three weeks or so, hundreds of mine workers drive into town in Ferraris with the expressed intention of drinking until they collapse, brawling with each other, then chasing anything with a pulse.

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This is because every three weeks or so, hundreds of mine workers drive into town in Ferraris with the expressed intention of drinking until they collapse, brawling with each other, then chasing anything with a pulse.

This may sound familiar to some travelling England fans (except for the fighting and the Ferraris) but frankly we're all quite glad the next influx of millionaires with pick-axes and Patek Philippe watches is not expected until after we fly to Sydney.

Upbeat

So how are things elsewhere on an England tour that has got to be the biggest and most ambitious in a generation? Answer: Pretty upbeat.

Naturally, every player who set out from home last week harboured ambitions to play in a Test match on this tour. However these blokes are also realists, so those selected for the mid-week team are not too disappointed.

Even Olly Barkley, who must be wondering what else he could have done to impress Johno towards the end of the domestic season, is determined to put in a performance that will force the selectors to consider him for the second Test in Sydney.

Ugo Monye, who was playing in Test matches for the Lions in South Africa 12 months ago, but who now finds himself in the mid-week team, is nevertheless full of good humour and intent on winning another cap on this trip.

Likewise Delon Armitage, back in the England number 15 shirt, an item of clothing that once appeared to be nailed to his shoulders, is desperate to regain the sort of form that made his name one of the first on the Red Rose team-sheet.

So are we optimistic about England's chances on this trip? Having spoken at length to scrum-coach Graham Rowntree during our "off-the-record" catch-up last night I find myself well and truly in glass-half-full territory.

The only trouble is that if England do win in Perth, especially on Saturday, we'll have to go out and toast their victory. As you read this I am busy trying to re-mortgage my house.

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