England make four changes for Wales clash
February 23, 2012
Manu Tuilagi will be back on England duty this weekend © Getty Images
Owen Farrell will start at fly-half for England in Saturday's Six Nations showdown with Wales after Charlie Hodgson failed to recover from a finger injury.
Farrell's switch from inside centre has opened the way for Manu Tuilagi to return to the England midfield alongside Brad Barritt in one of four changes to the side that beat Italy 19-15 two weekends ago. Farrell has been preferred at No.10 to Toby Flood, who returns to the England squad on the bench alongside fit-again Northampton lock Courtney Lawes.
Elsewhere, Northampton scrum-half Lee Dickson, Scarlets No.8 Ben Morgan and Leicester lock Geoff Parling will all start their first Tests at the home of English rugby after coming off the bench in the previous victories over Scotland and Italy.
Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs and Northampton No.8 Phil Dowson drop to the bench, but there is no place for Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer, who started England's previous two wins. Tuilagi's promotion into the starting line-up following Hodgson's injury has led to Harlequins fullback Mike Brown being recalled from club duty to start on the bench.
Dickson has been charged with injecting some energy and tempo at scrum half and Morgan will look to carry England over the advantage line. Both men made a game-changing impact for England at the Stadio Olimpico, while Parling's lineout qualities have impressed the England management.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster said: "It's been a good start with two wins but we've got real competition for places and Lee, Ben and Geoff deserve an opportunity to start this game. It means that Phil (Dowson) and Ben (Youngs) will provide a different role from the bench and it's great to have Courtney and Toby, who can also give us options in what I am sure will be a full-on encounter.
"Charlie cut his finger in training earlier in the week and needed stitches but it swelled up and there is a sprain there. We assessed him this morning and he cannot grip fully. Owen has trained throughout and knows our patterns and plays so we are fully confident in his ability to run the game from 10 and we are looking forward to seeing how Brad and Manu gel together in the centre.
"It's our first home game of the RBS 6 Nations which we are really excited about and we are sure the crowd will get behind us just as the travelling supporters have done in Scotland and Italy. Playing at Twickenham makes it extra special for us and I know we will get all the encouragement we need."
More to follow...
England: Ben Foden (Northampton Saints); Chris Ashton (Northampton Saints), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers), Brad Barritt (Saracens), David Strettle (Saracens); Owen Farrell (Saracens), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints); Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Mouritz Botha (Saracens), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), Ben Morgan (Scarlets)
Replacements: Rob Webber (London Wasps), Matt Stevens (Saracens), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Phil Dowson (Northampton Saints), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Mike Brown (Harlequins)
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