Rugby World Cup 2011

Johnson pairs Jonny and Toby

2011-10-06 07:17
Toby Flood

Auckland - England manager Martin Johnson has paired fly-halves Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood as he seeks an up-tempo game to see off France in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final at Eden Park.

Mike Tindall's unsuccessful battle with a leg injury eased the vexed decision for Johnson, who Thursday named Flood at inside-centre next to number 10 Wilkinson as 2003 champions England continue their quest for a third successive World Cup final appearance.

Wilkinson is England's record points scorer with 1,177, but he has managed just nine out of his 20 goal attempts in the tournament and questions have been raised about the 32-year-old golden boy's effectiveness.

"It's an exciting combination for us, it gives us Toby's kicking and passing game and he's a pretty experienced player now with 40-odd Test caps, so he's been playing well," Johnson said at Thursday's team announcement.

"Jonny has had a lot of long kicks in the tournament and he's never flinched from having a shot so you go into a game like this and you don't want to be playing against Jonny Wilkinson."

Wilkinson was the drop-goal hero of England's 2003 World Cup final win over Australia in Sydney, when Johnson was captain.

Johnson said he was looking at increasing England's tempo after he was frustrated with his team's laboured display in their 16-12 win over Scotland in the final pool game at Eden Park last weekend.

"We've got to get tempo into our game, we didn't do that last week and we let Scotland get the initiative early on," he said.

"We really need to be that little bit better in the first 20 minutes and give ourselves a platform to go on from instead of fighting back from."

It was replacement Flood's long pass that prised open the Scots' defence for wing Chris Ashton to score the winning try with two minutes left.

Flood came on late in the Scotland match after Tindall suffered a leg injury and he has not trained this week, while Wilkinson has been cleared of elbow trouble.

"Mike's had an injury this week and we didn't know at the start of the week where he would be, we're pretty confident where Jonny would be, Mike's taken a bit longer and we've made our call," Johnson said.

"Touch and go, Mike could have been fit to go on Saturday, but he's not trained with us this week and Toby's been playing very well and we've made the call.

"We've got a strong bench and we're going to need them for this match. We've picked the best team for this week."

Johnson made several other changes with French-based lock Tom Palmer, No 8 Nick Easter and wing Mark Cueto replacing Courtney Lawes, James Haskell and the banned Delon Armitage respectively.

"Nick has missed a few games with injury and we felt it right for James (Haskell) to start last week," Johnson said. "Nick brings a lot of experience in that specialist position at No 8 and a good degree of game control as well.

"Tom Palmer has a huge work-rate, a player who is less visible than some, but does a huge amount of good work for us.

"It's do or die, a World Cup quarter-final, you have to start big and there's no holding yourself back for anything, so we've got five forwards on the bench and it's going to be that type of game," the former lock added.

"We've got a chance to impact the game and change its course in the second half with those substitutions."

England have knocked France out of the last two World Cups, beating them in both the 2003 and 2007 semi-finals.


15 Ben Foden; 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Toby Flood, 11 Mark Cueto; 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Ben Youngs; 8 Nick Easter, 7 Lewis Moody (capt), 6 Tom Croft; 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Louis Deacon; 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Matt Stevens

Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Courtney Lawes, 19 Simon Shaw, 20 James Haskell, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Matt Banahan

* Click HERE for the latest RWC odds on BET.CO.ZA


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