Rugby World Cup 2011: Flood to start alongside Wilkinson

England pick both Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson for Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against France

martin johnson
Johnson insists starting both Flood and Wilkinson is "not a gamble" PA Photos

martin johnson

England have opted to start Toby Flood at inside centre alongside Jonny Wilkinson at fly half for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final showdown with France.

Flood’s inclusion is one of four changes to Martin Johnson’s side for the clash at Eden Park, with England turning to the Leicester Tigers star after Mike Tindall failed to recover from a dead leg.

Flood is joined in the starting XV by lock Tom Palmer, No8 Nick Easter and wing Mark Cueto, who all come in for Courtney Lawes, James Haskell and Delon Armitage respectively.

Lawes and Haskell drop down to the bench, alongside three other forwards in Dylan Hartley, Alex Corbisiero and Simon Shaw, with Richard Wigglesworth covering the halfback positions and Matt Banahan the rest of the backline.

“James [Haskell] is particularly unlucky not to start,” said Johnson. “But it is far more of a 22-man effort on the day than ever before.

“It was a particularly hard call and I said that in front of the team, that he didn’t deserve it the way he has played.

“But he will still have a massive impact on the match. Everyone wants to start but your role is no less coming off the bench.”

When quizzed over the decision to start both Flood and Wilkinson, Johnson added: “You always put a lot of thought into your selection, no more so than for a World Cup quarter-final.

“It’s not a gamble. It’s an exciting combination for us. It gives us Toby’s kicking game, Toby’s passing game. He’s a pretty experienced Test player now, 40 plus caps. He’s been playing well.

“It does give us some different things that we can do on the field when we play those guys.”

England team: 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).

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