Wood to debut against battered Wales
February 2, 2011
James Hook starts at fullback for 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.
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.
Wales coach Warren Gatland has gambled by selecting James Hook at fullback. The Perpignan-bound playmaker has ousted Lee Byrne from the starting line-up, with Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies paired in midfield.
Davies' Scarlets team-mate, Morgan Stoddart, starts on the wing following an injury to Leigh Halfpenny, with Shane Williams completing the back-three. Halfpenny's ankle problem was the latest to hit an injury-ravaged squad, with Gatland unable to call on British & Irish Lions props Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones as well as wing George North, centres Tom Shanklin and Andrew Bishop and banned scrum-half Richie Rees.
As a result of injuries to Jenkins and Jones there are starts for Ospreys props Paul James and Craig Mitchell, while Wasps No.8 Andy Powell is recalled to the starting line-up alongside flankers Dan Lydiate and Sam Warburton.
Wales: J Hook (Ospreys); M Stoddart (Scarlets), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues), J Davies (Scarlets), S Williams (Ospreys); S Jones (Scarlets), M Phillips (Ospreys); P James (Ospreys), M Rees (Scarlets, capt), C Mitchell (Ospreys), B Davies (Cardiff Blues), A-W Jones (Ospreys), D Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons), S Warburton (Cardiff Blues), A Powell (Wasps)
Replacements: R Hibbard (Ospreys), J Yapp (Cardiff Blues), R Jones (Ospreys), J Thomas (Ospreys), D Peel (Sale Sharks), R Priestland (Scarlets), L Byrne (Ospreys)
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)
Referee: Alain Rolland (Ire)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
John Taylor argues the world's best XVs players must be given a chance to play in the Olympics to increase the appeal of the game
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9