Auld enemies draw battle lines
March 10, 2010
Flanker Joe Worsley returns to the England line-up for the clash with Scotland at Murrayfield © Getty Images
Scotland coach Andy Robinson has reshuffled his backline for their Calcutta Cup showdown with England at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The former England boss has recalled Edinburgh's Nick de Luca at outside-centre following disappointing defeats to Wales and Italy, with Max Evans shifting to the wing in place of Ulster's Simon Danielli. De Luca partners Graeme Morrison in midfield while Dan Parks will go up against Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half.
Chris Cusiter again starts at scrum-half and leads the side, with co-captain Mike Blair ruled out of the game due to a concussion sustained while on Magners League duty with Edinburgh at the weekend. The same fate has befallen Gloucester prop Alasdair Dickinson, whose club team-mate Alasdair Strokosch has been sidelined by an ankle problem.
As a result, Rory Lawson will provide scrum-half back-up to Cusiter and Edinburgh prop Geoff Cross has been drafted onto the bench as an added front-row option. Alan MacDonald is the back-row cover, with the Glasgow trio of Kelly Brown, John Barclay and Johnnie Beattie intact. Jim Hamilton has again seen off the challenge of British & Irish Lions tourist Nathan Hines and starts alongside Al Kellock in the second-row.
Robinson elected to reshuffle his backline in order to free Evans up to attack England's "poorer defenders" while De Luca has been selected as much for his defence as his attack.
"It's taking the opportunities that we create and stopping England scoring," Robinson said. "The last two games that have been won here at Murrayfield, England haven't scored a try. It's going to be vital that we stop England getting any sort of momentum.
"I felt that we just needed to free Max up a bit for him to be able to attack their weak and poorer defenders. Nick is probably one of our best defenders and will get stuck into England and put them under some pressure, and stop their 12 and 13. Also, he's a very good ball-carrier.
"There are a number of very good players who play for England. They have a very good forward pack, they're very good at attacking through Danny Care. They have got pace, so they are a dangerous team. But if you get in their faces and you stop them from playing, you ask real questions of them."
England manager Martin Johnson has dropped Lewis Moody for the game, recalling Wasps flanker Joe Worsley to the starting XV. Worsley slots into the back-row alongside James Haskell and Nick Easter at openside, a position that he filled during last season's Six Nations. Also in the pack, Louis Deacon has been preferred to Courtney Lawes as a replacement for the injured Simon Shaw in the second-row, the young Northampton powerhouse making do with a place on the bench.
He is joined there by team-mate Ben Foden as London Irish fullback Delon Armitage has recovered from the rib injury he sustained against Ireland in the last round to start. The backline remains unchanged from England's only tournament defeat, with Jonny Wilkinson again leading the line at fly-half. Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait are retained in the centre while Mark Cueto and Ugo Monye will again provide the firepower out wide.
Toby Flood has been named on the bench despite suffering a head knock while on duty with Leicester at the weekend, and is joined among the replacements by uncapped team-mate Ben Youngs, who has displaced Paul Hodgson as scrum-half cover.
"It was probably the longest selection process since I have been involved and the toughest but that's good. There is pressure on players to perform," said Johnson.
Johnson, who spent his whole playing career at Leicester, laughed off the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that Moody was dropped as punishment because he is leaving Welford Road for Bath next season. With his serious face on, Johnson insisted Moody had not been dropped at all - rather that Worsley had been preferred at openside for a physical showdown with the Scottish back row.
"We had this conversation last year when we picked Joe at seven but he was probably our best player," said Johnson. "There is not a weakness in Lewis' game but Joe's defence is good and his ball-carrying is particularly strong."
Scotland: H Southwell (Stade Francais); S Lamont (Scarlets), N De Luca (Edinburgh), G Morrison (Glasgow), M Evans (Glasgow); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Glasgow, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton); J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Kellock (Glasgow); K Brown (Glasgow), J Barclay (Glasgow), J Beattie (Glasgow)
Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), G Cross (Edinburgh), N Hines (Leinster), A MacDonald (Edinburgh), R Lawson (Gloucester), P Godman (Edinburgh), S Danielli (Ulster)
England: D Armitage (London Irish); M Cueto (Sale), M Tait (Sale), R Flutey (Brive), U Monye (Harlequins); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester); L Deacon (Leicester), S Borthwick (Saracens, captain); J Haskell (Stade Francais), J Worsley (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), L Moody (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton)
Referee: Marius Jonker (SA)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ire), Carlo Damasco (Ita)
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