Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Johnson names new-look midfield

Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson has named a new-look midfield of Jonny Wilkinson, Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi for England's final World Cup warm-up international against Ireland on Saturday.

Wilkinson has reclaimed the fly-half role from Toby Flood just a fortnight before England's opening World Cup encounter against Argentina on September 10.

Tuilagi made a try-scoring debut against Wales three weeks ago and returns to the team in place of Shontayne Hape, with Tindall moving to inside centre.

Tindall, who continues as captain in the absence of Lewis Moody, will win his 72nd cap and draw level with Will Carling as England's most-capped centre.

The team features six changes from the 19-9 defeat to Wales in Cardiff and provides the strongest indication yet of Johnson's first-choice World Cup side.

Wing Chris Ashton will make his first start of the warm-up campaign after overcoming a foot injury, joining Ben Foden and Mark Cueto in the back three.

Richard Wigglesworth starts again at scrum-half as Ben Youngs continues his recovery from a knee operation. Moody and Youngs were the only two not considered due to injury.

Steve Thompson continues at hooker alongside Andrew Sheridan, who will make his first appearance of the warm-up campaign after recovering from a shoulder operation, and Dan Cole.

Louis Deacon and Courtney Lawes pair up again in the second row, with James Haskell starting at openside flanker, where he played during England's RBS 6 Nations title-winning campaign.

Tom Croft returns at blindside flanker, with Tom Wood moving to the bench, and Nick Easter continues at number eight.