Sexton and Wilkinson to face off
February 23, 2010
Jonathan Sexton starts at fly-half for Ireland © Getty Images
Jonathan Sexton has beaten Ronan O'Gara to the Ireland fly-half jersey for their Six Nations showdown with England at Twickenham.
Sexton will lead the line while Leicester's Geordan Murphy returns at fullback in place of the injured Rob Kearney. Keith Earls and Tommy Bowe continue on the wings.
The young Leinster pivot will go up against Jonny Wilkinson after the Toulon man was able to hold off the challenge of Toby Flood and retain the England fly-half berth.
In the pack, tight-head John Hayes will win his 100th Ireland cap, the first player to do so, and Munster's Donncha O'Callaghan returns to the second-row alongside Paul O'Connell. Rory Best will start at hooker following Jerry Flannery's six-week ban for kicking France's Alexis Palisson.
Martin Johnson has resisted calls to drop Wilkinson after a laboured display against Italy last time out and he is again named alongside Harlequins' Danny Care. Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait are named in the centre while Delon Armitage, Mark Cueto and Ugo Monye are given another chance to impress in the back-three.
There are three changes on the bench, where Wasps' Joe Worsley is called in despite sitting out training on Monday. He is joined there by Bath hooker Lee Mears, who replaces Brive's Steve Thompson, and Northampton's exciting fullback Ben Foden.
England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tait (Sale Sharks), R Flutey (Brive), U Monye (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, captain), J Haskell (Stade Francais), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins)
Replacements: L Mears (Bath), D Wilson (Bath), L Deacon (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), P Hodgson (London Irish), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton)
Ireland: G Murphy (Leicester), T Bowe (Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Leinster) capt, G D'Arcy (Leinster), K Earls (Munster), J Sexton (Leinster), T O'Leary (Munster), C Healy (Leinster), Rory Best (Ulster), J Hayes (Munster), D O'Callaghan (Munster), P O'Connell (Munster), S Ferris (Ulster), D Wallace (Munster), J Heaslip (Leinster)
Replacements: S Cronin (Connacht), T Buckley (Munster), L Cullen (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), E Reddan (Leinster), R O'Gara (Munster), A Trimble (Ulster)
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery