Rugby World Cup 2011
England drop hat-trick hero
Mark Cueto (File)
Auckland - England sprang a surprise by dropping hat-trick hero Mark Cueto on Thursday as they welcomed back hardman lock Courtney Lawes from suspension for their crunch Rugby World Cup pool match with arch-rivals Scotland.
Jonny Wilkinson was preferred to Toby Flood at flyhalf and back-rower Nick Easter returned from injury to the bench, with Samoan-born wrecking-ball Manu Tuilagi paired with Mike Tindall in the centres.
But Cueto, who scored a quickfire treble in England's romp against Romania, lost his place on the left wing to Delon Armitage as he continues his recovery from a back injury.
"Delon has played very well. We're very comfortable with him playing there and Mark has obviously had limited game time since he's been here, so another good week of training for him will be great," said coach Martin Johnson.
He added that Armitage, who was banned during England's victorious Six Nations campaign for pushing a doping official and was then suspended again for punching in a Premiership game, had seized his chance to return to the team.
"I've said all the way through, if Delon's playing well and he's in form he's a Test match player," Johnson said.
"He wasn't available to us at the end of the Six Nations for various reasons and he's come back from that and worked very hard all the way through.
"Obviously the injury with Mark has been a factor in that. He's (Cueto) probably one game short of being right back to where he could be, so he will work as hard as he can this week to get himself there and hope to get another chance."
Armitage, Lawes for Tom Palmer and prop Matt Stevens in place of Alex Corbisiero were the three changes from last week's 67-3 Romania win. Wilkinson, Tindall and hooker Steve Thompson are all veterans of England's 2003 World Cup final triumph.
The uncompromising Lawes is back after serving a two-match ban for kneeing Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma in the head during England's hard-fought opening win in Dunedin.
England are looking for a fourth straight victory which would ensure they reach the quarter-finals and a likely match-up with France, while Scotland need to win and deny England a bonus point.
"It's knock-out rugby. Let's not worry about the points differences and all that," Johnson said. "We've got to win, they've got to win. It's what World Cups are about. No one's under any illusion about what it's about."
15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Delon Armitage, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 James Haskell, 7 Lewis Moody (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Matt Stevens
Substitutes: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Tom Palmer, 19 Nick Easter, 20 Richard Wigglesworth, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Matt Banahan
15 Chris Paterson, 14 Max Evans, 13 Joe Ansbro, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Mike Blair, 8 Richie Vernon, 7 John Barclay, 6 Ally Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock (captain), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen
Substitutes: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Ross Rennie, 20 Chris Cusiter, 21 Dan Parks, 22 Nick de Luca