Wilkinson dropped for France clash

Jonny Wilkinson has been dropped by England for only the third time in his 12-year international career.

Jonny Wilkinson has been dropped by England for only the third time in his 12-year international career.

Toby Flood will start at fly-half against Grand Slam-chasing France on Saturday night after Martin Johnson made six changes to the side which drew 15-15 with Scotland.

The only previous occasions when Wilkinson was dropped from the England team were for Paul Grayson at the 1999 World Cup and for Danny Cipriani in the 2008 Six Nations.

Wilkinson suffered a heavy blow to the head at Murrayfield and was forced from the field, but has been passed fit after monitoring from the England medics and is named on the bench.

Flood made a difference to England’s laboured attacking game when he came on at Murrayfield and will look to unleash a revamped back line which features Ben Foden, debutant winger Chris Ashton and Mike Tindall.

Foden gets his long-awaited chance to start at full-back after two eye-catching cameo appearances off the bench. The off-form Delon Armitage has dropped out of the squad altogether.

Ashton has scored 19 tries in 25 games for Northampton this season and will make his Test debut on the wing in place of Ugo Monye, who damaged his neck at Murrayfield.

Tindall, who has made three starts for Gloucester after four months out with a hamstring injury, returns to the England team in place of Mathew Tait at outside centre.

England will expect Tindall to provide a physical midfield presence opposite the potentially destructive French centre Mathieu Bastareaud.

The axe has also fallen on James Haskell, who slips to the bench with Lewis Moody back in the starting XV at openside flanker with Joe Worsley moving to blindside.

Simon Shaw reclaims his place in the second row from Louis Deacon after missing the Scotland game through injury.

England have beaten France in each of their last three meetings, including twice in Paris in the 2008 Six Nations and the 2007 World Cup semi-final.

But the French have been comfortably the best team in the championship this year and can wrap up a Grand Slam with a win on Saturday evening.

2 RUGBYU England

England captain Steve Borthwick was named in the team but he remains a doubt as he continues to struggle with a knee injury.

Borthwick missed training today and will spend two days with his leg in a brace.

Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer has been drafted into the squad as cover in case Borthwick fails to recover in time.

“Steve Borthwick won’t train today. His injury was a little bit more serious than first thought,” said Johnson.

“I hoped the scan he went for yesterday would be clear but it showed something. He will be in a brace for two days and assessed again tomorrow.”

Johnson explained that Wilkinson was relegated to the bench after a week spent passing the necessary cognitive tests and he is excited at giving Flood the chance.

“Jonny took a number of bangs and heavy blows. We need at least two players in every position and we would have been happy to pick Toby in every game so far,” he said.

Tindall’s return means England will tackle France with the same midfield combination – with Flood at fly-half and Riki Flutey at inside centre – that beat Les Bleus comfortably at Twickenham last year.

Bastareaud’s selection in the French squad was clearly key to Tindall’s return and Johnson admitted it was a harsh call on Tait, who has had little chance to show his attacking prowess.

“Mike coming into the centre is a tough call on Taity, who hasn’t done much wrong but Mike brings a physical edge to our midfield,” said Johnson

“And Ben’s form has been so good we have included him at full-back.

“Delon has not been playing as well as he can. That was a good call for Ben, who is playing very well. Chris Ashton’s form has been very good.”

England team to play France in the RBS 6 Nations Championship at the Stade de France on Saturday, March 20 (kick-off 19.45pm):

B Foden (Northampton); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Brive), C Ashton (Northampton); T Flood (Leicester), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), S Shaw (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), J Worsley (Wasps), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), L Deacon (Leicester), J Haskell (Stade Francais), B Youngs (Leicester), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Tait (Sale Sharks).

More in this section

CourtsRugbySix NationsPlace: MurrayfieldPlace: ScotlandPlace: ParisPlace: TwickenhamPlace: Stade de FrancePerson: WilkinsonPerson: Jonny WilkinsonPerson: Toby FloodPerson: Martin JohnsonPerson: Paul GraysonPerson: Danny CiprianiPerson: FloodPerson: Ben FodenPerson: Chris AshtonPerson: Mike TindallPerson: FodenPerson: Delon ArmitagePerson: AshtonPerson: Ugo MonyePerson: TindallPerson: Mathew TaitPerson: Mathieu BastareaudPerson: James HaskellPerson: Lewis MoodyPerson: Joe WorsleyPerson: Simon ShawPerson: Louis DeaconPerson: Steve BorthwickPerson: BorthwickPerson: Tom PalmerPerson: JohnsonPerson: JonnyPerson: TobyPerson: Riki FluteyPerson: BastareaudPerson: TaitPerson: MikePerson: TaityPerson: BenPerson: DelonPerson: M CuetoPerson: M TindallPerson: R FluteyPerson: C AshtonPerson: T FloodPerson: D CarePerson: T PaynePerson: D HartleyPerson: D ColePerson: S ShawPerson: S BorthwickPerson: J WorsleyPerson: L MoodyPerson: N EasterPerson: S ThompsonPerson: D WilsonPerson: L DeaconPerson: J HaskellPerson: B YoungsPerson: J WilkinsonPerson: M TaitEvent: Grand SlamEvent: 1999 World CupEvent: 2008 Six NationsEvent: 2007 World CupEvent: RBS 6 Nations ChampionshipOrganisation: EnglandOrganisation: FranceOrganisation: ScotlandOrganisation: NorthamptonOrganisation: GloucesterOrganisation: Stade FrancaisOrganisation: Les BleusOrganisation: Sale SharksOrganisation: BriveOrganisation: LeicesterOrganisation: HarlequinsOrganisation: WaspsOrganisation: SaracensOrganisation: BathOrganisation: Toulon
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