England ready for arm wrestle with Georgia
September 16, 2011
Tom Palmer is one of a host of changes for England © Getty Images
England head into their Pool B clash with Georgia looking for a significant step up in performance following their disappointing showing against Argentina in Dunedin.
Martin Johnson's team were fortunate to come through the ferocious game after Ben Youngs' try rescued England from defeat. Their decision to fight Argentina on their own terms, which resulted in an arm-wrestle up-front, played into the Pumas' strength and almost caused an opening day defeat. It was only with the introduction of Youngs and the injection of pace to their attack that they took control of the game and averted an upset.
With Georgia similarly reliant on their bruising pack of forward, England will surely look to move the ball away from the breakdown faster and shift Georgia's big forwards around the pitch on Sunday. Johnson has chosen to shuffle his pack and the opportunity is there for a number of players to force their way into England's first-choice XV, including Matt Stevens and Toby Flood.
Georgia pushed Scotland hard in their opening match in Invercargill, without quite living up to their pre-match hype.
England - Player to Watch: After Jonny Wilkinson's faltering display with the boot and his inability to ignite England against Argentina, Toby Flood has the chance to wrestle back the No.10 shirt for the remainder of the tournament.
England - Team News: England captain Lewis Moody makes his first appearance of the Rugby World Cup as he returns to openside flanker and Tom Wood starts his first game of the tournament. Shontayne Hape replaces Mike Tindall, who captained England in the victory over Argentina, while Ben Youngs and Toby Flood are given the opportunity to win back the half-back roles from Richard Wigglesworth and Jonny Wilkinson. Matt Stevens is given the nod at loose-head alongside the in-coming Dylan Hartley and Tom Palmer and Simon Shaw come into the second-row. James Haskell was a late replacement for Nick Easter at the back of the scrum with Louis Deacon coming onto the bench.
Georgia - Player to Watch: Mamuka Gorgodze, one the most highly-rated and feared back-rows in the Top 14, was reasonably well contained by the Scots on Wednesday so you can be certain that he will be determined to make his considerable presence felt against England. Toby Flood beware!
Georgia - Team News: Georgia head coach Richie Dixon has recalled Toulon prop David Kubriashvili for the game in Dunedin. Kubriashvili was left on the bench for the Georgian's tournament opener but he takes over at tight-head from Clermont Auvergne's David Zirakashvili, who drops to the bench. The only other change to the side beaten by the Scots also comes in the pack, with Ilia Zedginidze coming into the second-row in place of Levan Datunashvili.
Key Battle: Prop Alex Corbisiero takes up the mantle of the departed Andrew Sheridan and set for a central role against Georgia's giant tight-head prop David Kubriashvili, the man who regularly keeps Carl Hayman out of the Toulon front-row. Georgia failed to impose their set-piece strength against Scotland but the scrum remains Georgia's primary weapon and biggest hope of derailing England.
Trivia: England are six penalties short of kicking 1,000 in Test history.
Stats: England had the worst tackle success rate of the opening round with just 81.44 completed.
"It is great to have Lewis back. 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. ." - England team manager Martin Johnson welcomes back his skipper and hopes that he and those earning their first starts this weekend put their hand up for selection for the tougher tests which lie in wait
""You can do all the training you like but it's only in the first game that you really find out so we know we have a lot of work to do. We killed ourselves in terms of attacking momentum with so many fouls and penalties." - Georgia boss Richie Dixon was disappointed with his side's discipline against Scotland
Prediction: England to play with greater pace and ambition than in their opening game against Argentina, which will be rewarded with a hefty victory over Georgia.
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