Jones returns to lead Wales
February 12, 2009
Ryan Jones will lead Wales against England © Getty Images
Wales skipper Ryan Jones has recovered from the calf strain that kept him from their opening Six Nations win over Scotland and will lead the side against England at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
Talismanic wing Shane Williams takes his place, but sat out training on Thursday and will require a fitness test on an ankle injury picked up at Murrayfield. Should he fail the test then Scarlets wing Mark Jones will slot straight in to the side. Ospreys centre Gavin Henson again misses out due to a calf strain.
Henson's absence means that Tom Shanklin and Jamie Roberts will continue their impressive partnership from last weekend, while Scarlets back-row Dafydd Jones drops to the bench for Jones. Last weekend's skipper Martyn Williams starts on the openside and Blues powerhouse Andy Powell retains the No.8 jersey. Powell is another injury worry, pulling up with a tightening in his calf during training that will be assessed later on Thursday. Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips continue at half-back.
"The fixture is a bit of a reversal from last year, it just shows that a lot of things can change in 12 months, but there is also a lesson there in that we were not tipped to win at Twickenham but we did and it sparked our season," said Wales boss Warren Gatland. "We will need to play better all around the park than we did last week if we are to beat England, they are a side with a vast amount of experience and they will respond well to having their backs to the wall.
"We have reached fourth place in the IRB World Rankings and our challenge now is to stay there and maintain consistency of performance."
England manager Martin Johnson has recalled Wasps flanker Joe Worsley into the England side. Worsley is one of two changes to the side that made a winning, if unconvincing, start to the Six Nations against Italy on Saturday, with Gloucester centre Mike Tindall also returning in place of Newcastle's Jamie Noon.
Worsley starts on the openside flank in place of London Irish's Steffon Armitage, who drops out of the 22 altogether after making his debut against Italy. Better known as a blindside flanker, Worsley has been called in to action due to lingering injury doubts over Bath's Michael Lipman and long-term injuries to Leicester's Lewis Moody and Worsley's Wasps team-mate Tom Rees. While Armitage has been in fine form in the Premiership this season, he went missing for much of his debut and has been dropped as England prepare for the Millennium Stadium's pressure-cooker atmosphere.
Again there is no place in the 22 for Danny Cipriani, with Andy Goode retaining the fly-half jersey and Toby Flood slotting in on the bench in place of London Irish's Shane Geraghty.
London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson, a late call-up from the Saxons squad after Danny Care failed to return to fitness, replaces Northampton's Ben Foden on the bench after Foden also won his debut cap at Twickenham on Saturday.
Johnson cited Worsley's tackling and ball-carrying ability as the reasons for his selection, one that will undoubtedly raide eyebrows considering his original exclusion from the Six Nations squad, only coming in as injury-cover.
"Joe has been playing very well. He is a very experienced player, a big tackler and a big carrier," said Johnson. "His form has been great all year, and we thought it was the right game for him to come and play. It was a tough call. Steffon played there last week. He has taken his first step in international rugby and he has a bright future. But we think Joe is the right guy for what we want to do."
Johnson was disappointed that his side's opening game fell well below the pace and intensity of the offerings served up by Ireland and France at Croke Park and Wales in Scotland.
"The tempo of those games was pretty high. We were frustrated we got bogged down a bit. But there are reasons for that, the mistakes we made and the opposition we are up against. We won the last game, and I would like to keep our fortunes heading in the same direction. We need to build confidence and momentum.
"We know as a squad we can play better than we did last week. It is about improving. I am looking forward to going away from home, and the pressure and intensity will be a big test for our team. The Welsh enjoy having a successful rugby team, and they are playing some attractive rugby - so it will be double difficult.
"We don't have that much expectation - and we need to go there and fight. We can also play - but we need to battle and quieten the crowd down."
Wales: Lee Byrne; Leigh Halfpenny, Tom Shanklin, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams; Stephen Jones, Michael Phillips; Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones, Ian Gough, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ryan Jones (captain), Martyn Williams, Andy Powell
Replacements: Huw Bennett, John Yapp, Luke Charteris, Dafydd Jones, Dwayne Peel, James Hook, Andrew Bishop
England: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Paul Sackey (London Wasps), Mike Tindall, (Gloucester), Riki Flutey (London Wasps), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Andy Goode (Brive), Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Lee Mears (Bath), Phil Vickery (London Wasps), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), James Haskell (London Wasps), Joe Worsley (London Wasps), Nick Easter (Harlequins)
Replacements: Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Julian White (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft, (Leicester Tigers), Luke Narraway (Gloucester), Paul Hodgson (London Irish), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter