Farrell returns for Wales showdown
March 14, 2013
Owen Farrell is expected to reclaim the England No.10 shirt for the clash with Wales on Saturday © PA Photos
England have made four changes to their starting line-up for their Six Nations title showdown with Wales at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Six Nations Permutations
A fit-again Owen Farrell reclaims the No.10 shirt with Toby Flood dropping to the bench while Ben Youngs replaces Danny Care at scrum-half. Joe Marler gets the nod ahead of Mako Vunipola at loose-head prop while Tom Croft will make his first Test start in over a year at blindside with James Haskell making way.
In a significant boost to England's title chances, Joe Launchbury has recovered from an elbow injury suffered in last weekend's 18-11 victory over Italy and will partner Geoff Parling in the second row with the latter also having shrugged off injury concerns.
"I am delighted Owen is fit - he is a big game player - and the pleasing thing is both our second rows came through," said coach Stuart Lancaster. "Geoff had that bang on his shoulder and neither he nor Joe trained on Tuesday. I was pretty confident last night and this morning we had a lineout session at 8.30am and they were fine. It is great for them to play the final game. They have been great for us in this championship."
Last season Croft suffered a triple break to the C6 vertebra and a burst disc when he mistimed a routine tackle on Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter. The Leicester flanker was told later that he had come as close to being paralysed as it was possible to be but he made his comeback for the Tigers on January 4. After being given medical clearance to play every week, Croft was immediately recalled by England and he came off the bench against Italy.
Lancaster said: "Tom's extra lineout presence will hopefully give us an advantage. He is clearly a quality player and he has had a great impact since he has come back into the team," Lancaster told RFU.com. "I see it as an 80-minute game. James Haskell's impact coming off the bench will serve us better."
Lancaster took the same approach to his decision to start with Marler and use Mako Vunipola as a high-impact replacement. "Both props will play a big contribution. We believe Joe will give us the solidity in the scrum and then as the game wears on Mako will come on and do his thing."
Flood was not at his best on his last appearance against France but Lancaster has backed him to raise his game in Cardiff. "Clearly Wales will target that area and they will be coming down that channel and I am sure Owen will be ready for some work. We have got a big challenge coming our way but we will be ready for it," Lancaster said.
"When you look at this Welsh side, there are not many weaknesses," Lancaster said. "They come into game on back of three away wins which is great place to be. They have a very experienced side, around about 600 caps to our 280-odd. They have played in big games and they closed out those Grand Slams (in 2005, 2008 and 2011).
"It will take an outstanding effort but we have done it before, we have been to away games and won. We have played the best side in the world at home and won. We go in with a strong self belief. We have won four from four and the New Zealand game as well. We have to deal with the occasion and play with composure and accuracy. There is a quiet self-belief."
England: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Mike Brown; Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Joe Marler, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Geoff Parling, Tom Croft, Chris Robshaw (capt), Tom Wood
Replacements: Dylan Hartley, David Wilson, Mako Vunipola, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Danny Care, Toby Flood, Billy Twelvetrees
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The thirst for knowledge has seen coaches break away from the confines of rugby and look to America." Tom Hamilton on the two-way learning process
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside