England coach Stuart Lancaster has made one change to his starting line up ahead of the Cook Cup match with Australia this weekend. Previously unavailable due to a ban, Chris Ashton returns to the side at wing who replaces Ugo Monye in the side. Lancaster claims it was a difficult decision to drop Monye who played well last week. “To select 23 players from a squad of 30 plus who have trained so well, with such intensity and focus, was difficult but it’s a good position to be in. The ‘team first’ mentality of all our squad has impressed us greatly. We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side.” Lancaster said.
Australian coach Robbie Deans has made four changes ahead of their Cook Cup match with England on Saturday. The back line is bolstered by the return of Berrick Barns and Digby Ioane who replace Mike Harris and Pat McCabe respectively. In the forwards, injured Kane Douglas is replaced by Sitaleki Timani and veteran prop Ben Alexander replaces Sekope Kepu. Both Harris and Kepu will appear on the bench, with the others falling out of the match day squad with McCabe sustaining a neck injury. Despite their 33 – 6 mauling by France last weekend, the Wallabies coach was insistant that his team had learned from the defeat and moved on. “The key focus has been to take the meaning from it, and put that learning into practice for this week, both through our preparation and then onto the game itself, there aren’t too many challenges in Test rugby that are greater than playing England at Twickenham” said Deans.
Digby Ioane back from injury against Charlie Sharples who scored a brace of tries against Fiji last week. One would have thought that Lancaster would keep the sizable Ugo Monye in the team to tame on the elusive and aggressive Ioane, but instead he has gone for an undersized and inexperienced winger in Sharples. If Sharples can front up it will be a battle to behold. Also watch out for Scott Waldrom vs Wycliffe Palu at no.8. Palu is desperate to reclaim his starting shirt and Waldroms Kiwi heritage may inspire him bulldoze his Ausie opposition.
England: 15 Alex Goode, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Charlie Sharples, 10 Toby Flood, 9 Danny Care, 8 Thomas Waldrom, 7 Chris Robshaw captain), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Tom Palmer, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 David Wilson, 18 Mako Vunipola, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Mike Brown.
Australia: 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Drew Mitchell.
This one will be close! So close that I think the difference will be the packed out Twickenham stadium. England by 3-5 points.
England host Australia in the Cook Cup match on Saturday, KO 14:30 GMT (16:30 CAT)
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