England boss Johnson reveals his hand

England are set to field an especially raw side against Australia this weekend despite the return to Test duty of World Cup hero Jonny Wilkinson.

Manager Martin Johnson released 10 players from his squad on Tuesday, leaving him with 22.

However, the 2003 World Cup-winning captain is not due to name his starting XV and seven-man replacements bench until Wednesday.

Although the experienced trio of Wilkinson, Lewis Moody and captain Steve Borthwick are among the players retained, the average number of caps per man is 18 and several possible starters for Saturday’s Cook Cup clash at Twickenham have yet to get out of single figures.

Injuries have left England without nearly two teams’ worth of players, including several first-choices, including a British and Irish Lions front row, and Johnson delayed Tuesday’s scheduled team announcement by 24 hours to give Northampton’s New Zealand-born hooker Dylan Hartley more time to recover from a hamstring problem.

But the likely look of Johnson’s side for England’s first November international became clearer when utility backs Ben Foden and Mathew Tait were among those released back to their clubs ahead of this weekend’s Anglo-Welsh Cup ties along with World Cup winning lock Ben Kay and experienced Wasps back-row Joe Worsley.

Foden and Tait’s temporary release – England are due to re-assemble their 32-man squad Sunday ahead of Twickenham encounters against both Argentina and New Zealand – indicated that Ugo Monye, Matt Banahan and Mark Cueto will form the back three against the Wallabies, with Dan Hipkiss in midfield.

However, the uncapped Ayoola Erinle – now playing for French club Biarritz – could force his way into a centre berth.

England’s injury problems and a desire not to have too many novice combinations across the field may well lead Johnson to seek as much continuity as he can in key areas.

As a result, England could field a back-row entirely made up of players from Leicester, Johnson’s old club, and the same tight five that played against Argentina in June.

But in form Stade Francais loose forward James Haskell will be pushing hard for a place in the run-on team.

As for the locks, Louis Deacon appears likely to partner skipper Borthwick with Northampton’s uncapped Courtney Lawes having to content himself with a place on the bench.

Up front, should Hartley be fit he is set to scrum down alongside Bath tighthead prop David Wilson and Wasps loosehead Tim Payne.


“We’ve got no doubt as to the severity of the test we’ll face at the weekend.”Johnson said


“They play the top two teams in the world (South Africa and New Zealand) a lot. It’s going to be harder to get wins.


“There’s no way we’re going to read anything into those losses.”


The players remaining in the England camp  are:

Backs: Matt Banahan, Danny Care, Mark Cueto, Ayoola Erinle, Shane Geraghty, Andy Goode, Danny Hipkiss, Paul Hodgson, Ugo Monye, Jonny Wilkinson

Forwards: Duncan Bell, Steve Borthwick (capt), Jordan Crane, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Lewis Moody, Tim Payne, Steve Thompson, David Wilson

Johnson has therefore released :

Steffon Armitage, David Barnes,George Chuter , Ben Foden , Ben Kay , Nick Kennedy , David Strettle ,Mathew Tait ,Richard Wigglesworth, Joe Worsley.

A press release from the England management stated that the test side to play Australia on Saturday would be announced at 12.00pm Uk time.

The statement added that the England 32 man squad will re-convene on Sunday November 8 at the team base.


Possible England line up

(15-1): Ugo Monye; Matt Banahan, Da

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