Wood to make England debut
February 2, 2011
Northampton's Tom Wood will make his debut against Wales © Getty Images
Tom Wood will make his England debut in Friday night's Six Nations opener against Wales at the Millennium Stadium.
The Northampton flanker was not included in Martin Johnson's original 33-man squad for the tournament but has been promoted from the Saxons panel following injuries to Leicester's Tom Croft and skipper Lewis Moody. With Moody out, Gloucester centre Mike Tindall has been appointed England captain for the first time.
Wood will wear Croft's vacant No.6 jersey to help bolster the English lineout, while Stade Francais' James Haskell will start in the unfamiliar openside berth. Leicester lock Louis Deacon returns in the second-row to partner Tom Palmer, in place of injured Northampton youngster Courtney Lawes.
"It's a chance for Tom to come and play," Johnson said. "Would he have got there with all the guys fit? He probably wouldn't, but he's worth a look and worth his place - he was very impressive in the autumn when he came in and the way he's playing, most importantly, with his club, he's a pretty impressive player.
"It's not great to have guys injured but great to get Tom on the field in a big-time Test match. He's 24, 25, so he's not in his first year of it, he's got a bit of experience.
"Tom's good in the breakdown, even though he's an aerial player, Louis Deacon is also a good all-round player, very good at the breakdown and very good organisationally in the line-out, so I think we're fine. We've got good carrying ability in that back five as well with James [Haskell] coming in, all those back-row guys are slightly different and it is a good combination we've got."
Jonny Wilkinson again makes do with a place on the bench as Leicester's Toby Flood and Ben Youngs are paired at halfback while Saints wing Chris Ashton returns to action following injury to join club team-mate Ben Foden and Sale wing Mark Cueto in the back-three.
Joining Wilkinson among the replacements are Wasps forwards Joe Worsley and Simon Shaw, while Bath's Matt Banahan provides three-quarter cover.
England: B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tindall (Gloucester, capt), S Hape (Bath), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), L Deacon (Leicester Tigers), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Wood (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (Stade Francais), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Leeds Carnegie), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Banahan (Bath)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September