England v Ireland, Twickenham, February 27
England keep faith in Wilkinson
February 23, 2010
England have retained Jonny Wilkinson in their starting line-up to face Ireland © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson has named an unchanged team to face Ireland in their vital Six Nations showdown at Twickenham on Saturday.
Johnson has resisted calls to drop fly-half Jonny Wilkinson after a laboured display against Italy last time out and the Toulon pivot is again named alongside Harlequins' Danny Care.
Wilkinson was a fitness doubt on Monday after complaining of 'muscle tightness' and has been under-fire in the media after failing to inspire a pacy English backline against the Azzurri. Toby Flood provides back-up among the replacements.
Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait start in the centre while Delon Armitage, Mark Cueto and Ugo Monye are given another chance to impress in the back-three.
There are three changes on the bench, where Wasps' Joe Worsley is called in despite sitting out training on Monday. He is joined there by Bath hooker Lee Mears, who replaces Brive's Steve Thompson, and Northampton's exciting fullback Ben Foden.
Worsley will provide cover across the back-row, with James Haskell, Lewis Moody and Nick Easter tasked with containing a well-drilled Irish loose trio. Foden's inclusion will be welcomed by Guinness Premiership fans, who have seen the Saints flyer turn a number of games with his pace and ambition from deep.
"Everyone is pointing fingers at Jonny but it is a team issue," Johnson said. "We had a good chat about it as a group about where we need to improve. There were chances we missed last week. We were effective when we kept the ball in hand.
"Lee is back in good form after his injury and he gives us something a bit different off the bench with his ball-handling and his dynamism. Ben Foden is back on the bench. We made a specific call for last week with three front-rowers. That limits your options a bit and I said to Ben after the game last week it would have been nice to have him come on for the last 10 minutes against Italy. It is good to have him back on the bench."
England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tait (Sale Sharks), R Flutey (Brive), U Monye (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, captain), J Haskell (Stade Francais), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins)
Replacements: L Mears (Bath), D Wilson (Bath), L Deacon (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton)