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Ashton's hoping England can find form against Boks

By Gavin Mairs

Despite going into the tonight's crunch pool showdown without a recognised out-half or goal-kicker, England coach Brian Ashton today declared that his side were ready for the Springboks.

One wonders what his private thoughts are.

In a remarkable twist last night, Ashton, having first named former Wigan rugby league forward Andy Farrell at out-half following injuries to Jonny Wilkinson and Andy Farrell, looked as if he had bowed to the public outcry by revealing that Mike Catt instead would wear the No 10 shirt tonight.

It was hardly a trump card however. Catt, 36 next Sunday, has not played out-half for England since their 1999 Five Nations loss to Wales.

Ashton revealed he had not sent for Toby Flood as it would mean either Barkley or Wilkinson would have to leave the World Cup and he expects both players to be fit, or near fit, for selection against Samoa.

Farrell will however take the kicks at the Stade de France tonight (kick-off 8pm BST) against a Springbok side brimming with confidence, despite not having place-kicked for either club or country at rugby union. Worse still, should he be forced to retire with an injury, England's next in line to goal kick is replacement scrum-half Andy Gormarsall.

Meanwhile, Ireland prepare for their pool D match against Georgia as if they were Six Nations opponents, according to prop Simon Best.

Best is one of four Ulster players on the bench for tomorrow night's clash, with his brother Rory the sole member of Mark McCall's side in the starting line-up.

Ireland desperately need to hit the ground running at the Stade Chaban Delmas, both to rediscover their form and claim a bonus point win to keep their quarter-finals hopes alive.

"We can't take them for granted and rely on them being tired from a short turnaround," said Best. " We have got to prepare as we would for any Six Nations game. I think Georgia will have taken a lot of confidence out of that performance against Argentina."

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