England ring changes for Georgia
September 16, 2011
Lewis Moody returns to skipper England © Getty Images
Lewis Moody has returned from injury to captain an England team featuring nine changes for Sunday's Rugby World Cup appointment against Georgia.
Moody missed last weekend's victory over Argentina after suffering knee ligament damage in England's first warm-up international against Wales on August 6. The Bath flanker has played fewer than five full matches since initially injuring his knee in a Heineken Cup match in January, which ruled him out of the Six Nations.
But he has finally been given clearance to start by the England medics and returns in place of James Haskell at openside flanker, with Tom Wood to make his World Cup debut on the blindside as Tom Croft drops to the bench.
Matt Stevens, a tighthead prop by preference, has been pressed into action at loose-head while Dylan Hartley takes over from Steve Thompson at hooker. Simon Shaw and Tom Palmer form a new second-row partnership, taking over from Louis Deacon and the suspended Courtney Lawes. No.8 Nick Easter and tight-head prop Dan Cole are the only survivors in the pack from England's 13-9 victory over Argentina.
England have reunited their Six Nations title-winning half-back combination of Ben Youngs and Toby Flood, while Shontayne Hape takes over from Mike Tindall at inside centre. The back three of Ben Foden, Delon Armitage and Chris Ashton remains unchanged. Mark Cueto remains sidelined as he continues his comeback from a lower back injury, but the return of Moody is a major boost.
"It is great to have Lewis back," Johnson said. "This is a chance for a lot of guys to play. That was always the plan, that people would have to play and be ready, to give them a chance for the second half of the pool. Courtney is out for a couple of weeks but we would have played the other two locks anyway. It gives Floody a chance to play and Shontayne a chance and Matt to start at loosehead."
England opened their campaign with a 13-9 victory over the Pumas and face the prospect of another attritional contest, with Georgia particularly strong up front. "We are excited to be back in Dunedin," Johnson added. "It was a great game last week, a great atmosphere. It was intense, a real tough battle and it fees like you are almost in sudden death already. That is what you want, you want to be battle hardened as you go through the tournament."
England: B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), S Hape (London Irish), D Armitage (London Irish); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); M Stevens (Saracens), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), S Shaw (Unattached), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Wood (Northampton Saints), L Moody (Bath Rugby, capt), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (London Wasps), A Corbisiero (London Irish), T Croft (Leicester Tigers), J Haskell (Ricoh Black Rams), J Simpson (London Wasps), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Banahan (Bath Rugby).
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