England ring the changes for Boks showdown
November 21, 2012
Quins fullback Mike Brown will line up on the wing for England's clash with South Africa on Saturday © Getty Images
England coach Stuart Lancaster has made six changes to his side for Saturday's clash with South Africa.
Wasps' Joe Launchbury is handed his first Test start in the second row with club-mate Tom Palmer making way. London Irish's Alex Corbisiero also returns at loose-head prop having battled back from a knee injury and starts in the place of Quins' Joe Marler who is sidelined with a knee injury.
Northampton's Tom Wood is another to benefit from the England re-shuffle with a promotion to the blindside flanker berth at the expense of Exeter's Tom Johnson. The other change up front sees Gloucester's Ben Morgan named at No.8 instead of Leicester's Thomas Waldrom. Corbisiero, Wood and Morgan will all make their first starts of the end of year campaign. For Wood it is a first start since the World Cup after finally overcoming a chronic toe injury.
In the backs, Harlequins fullback Mike Brown starts on the left wing in favour of Gloucester's Charlie Sharples in anticipation of a fierce aerial battle and Leicester's Ben Youngs gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of Quins rival Danny Care with his superior kicking game giving him the edge.
"We have picked a team that will give us the best chance of beating South Africa," Lancaster said. "There were some tight calls, which is what you want as coaches, but the players we have brought in to start have been training well, will bring a real motivation to make the most of their opportunity and will suit the challenge we face against a tough and physical South African team."
Lancaster has no doubts that Launchbury has the game to cope with what is sure to be a physical Boks challenge. "He is a great athlete," explained the England boss, "but with that athleticism he has a very good rugby brain and seems to pop up in the right places at the right time...The challenge for him now is to deal with the demands of stepping up to the starting slot in an international game and there's none bigger than South Africa at home."
On his decision to start with the all-Leicester halfback pairing of fly-half Toby Flood and Youngs, he said: "We are very fortunate to have two high quality No.9s and we want Ben to take this opportunity. He's got a great kicking game and his partnership with Toby will be crucial but we are also sure that Danny will come off the bench and make a difference."
He added: "The centres remain the same with Brad [Barritt] and Manu [Tuilagi] who are there to deal with the physicality of the South African midfield but also cause them problems with the way we play and the game plan we are trying to evolve.
"Chris Ashton stays on the right with Alex Goode at fullback and Mike Brown gets his opportunity on the left. That again is a reflection of the fact we need a good kicking game to play in the right areas of the field. Mike's left foot and everything else he brings to the game will be a great advantage for us."
Care is the only one of the deposed players to make the new-look bench that features a trio of players in line for their first appearance of the autumn - Saracens lock Mouritz Botha, Wasps back-row forward James Haskell and London Irish centre Jonathan Joseph.
England: A Goode (Saracens); C Ashton (Saracens), M Tuilagi (Leicester), B Barritt (Saracens), M Brown (Harlequins); T Flood (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); A Corbisiero (London Irish), T Youngs (Leicester), D Cole (Leicester), J Launchbury (Wasps), G Parling (Leicester), T Wood (Northampton), C Robshaw (Harlequins, capt), B Morgan (Gloucester).
Replacements: D Paice (London Irish), D Wilson (Bath), M Vunipola (Saracens), M Botha (Saracens), J Haskell (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins), O Farrell (Saracens), J Joseph (London Irish).
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