Jonny's axe puzzles Lievremont

2010-03-18 16:12

 Marcoussis - France coach Marc Lievremont is surprised at England's decision to drop flyhalf Jonny Wilkinson to the bench for Saturday's Six Nations game in Paris.

"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," Lievremont told a news conference on Thursday.

"I haven't forgotten however that Wilkinson was not playing last year at Twickenham and Toby Flood was at flyhalf. It didn't save us from conceding 30 points."

Flood's elevation to the starting lineup on Saturday is one of six changes by England after they drew 15-15 in Scotland last weekend.

Winger Ugo Monye is also replaced by Northampton's uncapped Chris Ashton, fullback Delon Armitage gives way to Ben Foden and outside centre Mathew Tait is dropped as 31-year-old World Cup-winner Mike Tindall makes his first appearance for a year.

In the pack Simon Shaw comes back in place of Louis Deacon while Lewis Moody, dropped against Scotland, returns at openside flanker and Joe Worsley switches to blindside with James Haskell dropping to the bench.

"We were expecting the return of Simon Shaw who is the cornerstone of the English pack. We were also expecting England to beef up their backline with a player like Tindall even if I appreciate Mathew Tait is more creative and unpredictable," Lievremont said.

"Through the selections of Shaw and Tindall, England have unveiled their game plan."

Lievremont agreed with counterpart Martin Johnson who told French media the home team had more to lose and could be affected by the pressure of playing for a grand slam.

"It's true," he said. "We will be playing for high stakes and it could inhibit our players but we know it and we'll take it into account before the game."