World Cup - England recall Lawes to face Scotland
Thu, 29 Sep 01:16:00 2011
England have recalled lock Courtney Lawes after suspension and named Matt Stevens at prop to beef up their pack to counter the threat of the burly Scottish forwards in their decisive World Cup Pool B clash at Eden Park.
England are favourites to earn the two points they need from Saturday's match to knock out their old rivals and progress to the quarter-finals as group winners.
However, Scotland can qualify with a victory, depending on bonus points, on Saturday and with Argentina expected to easily beat Georgia on Sunday to go through, England could end up suffering an early group stage exit.
"It's knockout rugby, let's not worry about points differentials and all that, they've got to win, we've got to win. That's what World Cups are all about," England manager Martin Johnson said.
The powerful Lawes, England's enforcer on the field, comes into the side in place of Tom Palmer after serving a two-match ban for dropping his knee to the head of Argentine hooker Mario Ledesma in the opening 13-9 win.
With rain expected to hamper running rugby on Saturday and Scotland having caused problems for them at the breakdown and in the scrum previously, the return of Lawes was a welcome boost for Johnson.
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"Courtney has been playing well, and although he hasn't played for two weeks, we're comfortable about him coming back in and performing for us," Johnson said.
Stevens returns after recovering from an ankle injury and faces a tough challenge in nullifying the threat of Scottish tighthead and renowned scrummager Euan Murray in one of the key battles on Saturday.
The only other change to the side that routed Romania 67-3 in Dunedin on Saturday is in the backs, with Delon Armitage preferred on the wing to the experienced Mark Cueto, who scored a hat-trick of tries against the eastern Europeans on his return from injury.
"When Delon's playing well and in good, top form he's a test match player," Johnson said of his decision.
"Obviously the injury to Mark is a factor in that and he's probably one game short of being right back to where he can be.
"We're reasonably healthy, which is great at this point of the tournament, and, as ever, we thought this was the best team for this particular game."
Scotland coach Andy Robinson named a side full of pace earlier on Thursday but admitted they would still be attacking England with forward grunt through the middle.
For that reason, in-form number eight James Haskell, blindside Tom Croft and captain Lewis Moody will need to be at the best at the breakdown to counter the Scottish threat.
Discipline will also be key for Johnson in what is expected to be a closely fought battle after England gave away a number of needless penalties in their opening three wins.
Elsewhere in the side, Jonny Wilkinson will win his 90th cap after being named ahead of Toby Flood at fly-half following an improved showing against Romania where he provided more of an attacking threat than in previous matches.
Team: 15-Ben Foden, 14-Chris Ashton, 13-Manu Tuilagi, 12-Mike Tindall, 11-Delon Armitage, 10-Jonny Wilkinson, 9-Ben Youngs, 8-James Haskell, 7-Lewis Moody (captain), 6-Tom Croft, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Louis Deacon, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Steve Thompson, 1-Matt Stevens.
Replacements: 16-Dylan Hartley, 17-Alex Corbisiero, 18-Tom Palmer, 19-Nick Easter, 20-Richard Wigglesworth, 21-Toby Flood, 22-Matt Banahan.
Johnson explains Lawes choice