All throughout this World Cup warm-up period Martin Johnson has hinted at fielding his strongest side for England’s final warm-up match with Ireland, so today’s team selection offers some interesting insight.
Lewis Moody and Ben Youngs aside, Johnson seems to have gone with his strongest side which, for Toby Flood and Dylan Hartley, doesn’t make great reading.
Jonny Wilkinson will start at outside-half on Saturday suggesting he has reclaimed the number 10 jersey from Flood and, surprisingly, Steve Thompson has been handed a start at hooker in favour of Dylan Hartley.
It’s a must win game for England who will head to New Zealand on the back of two defeats should they lose to Ireland on Sunday, and this side has plenty to prove to punters who feel England have a solid chance of winning the World Cup at 14/1.
Nick Easter has been preferred at number eight to James Haskell who has been moved to open-side Flanker, but the return of Moody at the World Cup will surely see Haskell dropped to the bench and Tom Croft starts on the blindside.
Shontayne Hape has been dropped leaving England with no specialist inside centre and so captain Mike Tindall will play at 12 with Manu Tuilagi outside him.
There’s a recall for Andrew Sheridan in the front row who lines up alongside Thompson and Dan Cole and Louis Deacon and Courtney Lawes will line-up behind them in the second row.
The two wings and full-back pick themselves in Chris Foden, Chris Ashton and Mark Cueto and Richard Wigglesworth is handed another chance to impress at scrum-half but he has plenty to do to oust Ben Youngs.
England team: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall (captain), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth; 1 Andrew Sheridan, 2 Steve Thompson, 3 Dan Cole, 4 Louis Deacon, 5 Courtney Lawes, 6 Tom Croft, 7 James Haskell, 8 Nick Easter.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Joe Simpson , 21 Toby Flood, 22 Delon Armitage.