England v Georgia, Rugby World Cup, September 18
Hape determined to seize chance
September 17, 2011
Hape is looking to make his mark against Georgia © Getty Images
Shontayne Hape is determined to make his mark on the Rugby World Cup after being selected to start in England's Pool B showdown with Georgia on Sunday.
The London Irish centre replaces Mike Tindall in the team, a decision based on Martin Johnson's squad rotation plans and not as a consequence of events in Queenstown.
Hape was one of the players in the Altitude Bar last Sunday night enjoying a team social, sanctioned by the management, which has hit the headlines. But the former New Zealand rugby league star is determined not to let the brouhaha become a distraction ahead of his World Cup debut.
"I am looking to stamp my mark on this World Cup," he said. "What has happened has happened. It is a distraction that is trying to take us away from focusing on our main point while we are here, which is rugby.
"We can't get drawn into things that have been happening or people who are making stories up. This is a big game and we owe it to ourselves and all our fans to go out there and put in a good performance.
"I am itching to get out there. Toby Flood and I have trained well together this week and I am looking for a big performance. Last week was frustrating, watching the game against Argentina. This week is our chance."
England opened their campaign with a hard-fought 13-9 victory over the Pumas and can expect another battle royale with the physical Georgians, who have a point to prove. Georgia failed to establish the scrum dominance everyone expected against Scotland on Wednesday night and eventually slipped to a 15-6 defeat.
"These guys are up for this game because they are so disappointed with themselves. I can tell you they are so disappointed with their display against Scotland," Georgia head coach Richie Dixon said. "England will understand that they have to perform."
Lewis Moody returns to captain England after finally convincing the medics he had recovered from a knee injury suffered against Wales on August 6. Moody, who comes into the team as one of nine changes from the Argentina game, admitted he was "annoyed" to have been withdrawn from contention to face the Pumas.
"It has been a frustrating few weeks for me, as I am sure you know, but I always knew I would get back in time to play in this World Cup," Moody wrote in his blog for Guinness 1759. "I was targeting the first game against Argentina but the physios pulled me so I had to accept that.
"Training has gone well and the medics, who I was annoyed with last week when they pulled me out of the Argentina game, have done a great job getting me right."
Moody played in England's only previous game against Georgia, in the pool stages of the 2003 World Cup, when they won 84-6. But Georgia have improved markedly since then and Moody said: "More than 20 of their 30-man squad play in the Top 14 in France and we have the utmost respect for them.
"I played against the Georgians in 2003 and although we won well, I remember it as one of the most physical games I have ever played in. Eight years on they will be far, far better than they were in Australia.
"Of course they are a forward-dominated side so the England pack in particular are getting ready for a mighty test of both ability and character."
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