Martin JOHNSON will unleash the “exciting combination” of Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half and Toby Flood at inside centre in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France.
Flood comes into the side for Mike Tindall, who has been sidelined by a dead leg, as one of four changes from England’s 16-12 victory over Scotland last weekend. Tom Palmer takes over from Courtney Lawes in the second row after making an impressive impact off the bench last week and Nick Easter has been preferred to James Haskell at No. 8. Mark Cueto, who was dropped for the Scotland game after scoring a hat-trick against Romania, returns on the wing after Delon Armitage was suspended. Johnson has only started Wilkinson and Flood together once previously, having abandoned plans to use a second playmaker at inside centre. The bulk of Flood’s 45 caps have been won at fly-half, but he finished the 2007 World Cup final at inside centre and played the entire 2008 Six Nations in the position. With Tindall out, Johnson has turned to Flood rather than Shontayne Hape. “It’s an exciting combination for us,” Johnson said.
England: B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), T Flood (Leicester Tigers), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); J Wilkinson (Toulon), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); M Stevens (Saracens), S Thompson (London Wasps), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), L Deacon (Leicester Tigers), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), L Moody (Bath Rugby, capt), N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton Saints), A Corbisiero (London Irish), C Lawes (Northampton Saints), S Shaw (Unattached), J Haskell (Ricoh Black Rams), R Wigglesworth (Saracens), M Banahan (Bath Rugby).