France v England, Six Nations, March 20
Lievremont surprised by Wilkinson omission
March 18, 2010
France coach Marc Lievremont faces the media, France press conference, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, February 25, 2010
Marc Lievremont was surprised by the omission of Jonny Wilkinson from the England side © Getty Images

France coach Marc Lievremont has admitted his surprise at Martin Johnson's decision to drop Jonny Wilkinson for England's Six Nations visit to the Stade de France on Saturday.

Wilkinson has been replaced at fly-half by Leicester's Toby Flood for a game that sees France go in search of a first Grand Slam since 2004.

Lievremont was expecting Wilkinson to start if passed fit following a head knock sustained against Scotland but will have his team ready to face Flood with the memory of last year's Twickenham hammering fresh in the memory.

"I was a little surprised when I heard Wilkinson was not playing," he said. "I was expecting Wilkinson to start if he was fit, or not to take part at all if he hadn't recovered from his head injury.

"I haven't forgotten, however, that Wilkinson was not playing last year at Twickenham and Toby Flood was at fly-half. It didn't save us from conceding 30 points. And we know that if the match is in the balance, Wilkinson can come on and that could be decisive."

Lievremont was less surprised with the return of Simon Shaw in the second-row and believes that this selection decision, along with the recall of Mike Tindall in place of Mathew Tait at outside-centre, betrays England's gameplan.

"We were expecting the return of Simon Shaw who is the cornerstone of the English pack," he said. "We were also expecting England to beef up their backline with a player like (Mike) Tindall, even if I appreciate Mathew Tait is more creative and unpredictable. Through the selections of Shaw and Tindall, England have unveiled their game plan."

Shaw will join Steve Borthwick in the second-row should the skipper prove his fitness. Borthwick has undergone further scans on his knee injury and a decision on his fitness will be taken prior to the squad leaving for France on Friday. Stade Francais' Tom Palmer has remained with the squad as cover.


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