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Moody released for club duty

England manager Martin Johnson has decided to release captain Lewis Moody for Aviva Premiership duty this weekend - but he is not taking a risk with Toby Flood.

The Leicester fly-half, who started both England's Tests on the tour of Australia, has played just one full game for the Tigers since suffering knee ligament damage on the opening weekend of the season.

Johnson always seemed likely to keep Flood in cotton wool ahead of England's opening Investec international against New Zealand on November 6 - but the injury concerns surrounding Jonny Wilkinson made that certain.

Wilkinson reported to England's pre-autumn training camp with a shoulder injury which is causing the Red Rose medics enough concern for Charlie Hodgson to be retained alongside Flood in the training squad.

But Johnson has agreed for Moody, who has been sidelined since October 1 with an eye socket injury, to link up with his Bath colleagues ahead of Sunday's game against Harlequins.

Johnson released eight other players back to their clubs on Tuesday, including Tim Payne and Dominic Waldouck from Wasps, Saracens winger David Strettle and Leicester hooker George Chuter.

Tom Wood, Joe Marler, Brad Barritt and Dan Ward-Smith, who came into camp on Monday along with Hodgson to provide injury cover, have also been released for Premiership duty. The remaining 27 players include five who are carrying injuries - but they do provide a pointer as to England's thinking ahead of their appointment with the All Blacks.

The decision to release Waldouck and Barritt points firmly to a midfield of Shontayne Hape and Mike Tindall - the same pairing that started the win over Australia in Sydney - particularly with Riki Flutey struggling with a calf problem.

Payne's release suggests England are looking at Andrew Sheridan to start at loose-head prop with Paul Doran-Jones or David Wilson, if fit from a back problem, to provide support off the bench.

England have kept their second row options open with Dave Attwood, Courtney Lawes and Tom Palmer all retained along with Simon Shaw, who is also carrying a suspect calf.


From Belfast Telegraph