Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Johnson Hands Tuilagi His Big Test

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Johnson Hands Tuilagi His Big Test

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Jones

[bar] ARTIN JOHNSON today explained why he has ignored Shontayne Hape for the match against Ireland to try yet another midfield combination in the shape of Mike Tindall and rookie Manu Tuilagi.

The team manager also insisted it was "the right call" to give Jonny Wilkinson the No10 role ahead of Toby Flood for Saturday's match in Dublin.

Johnson has picked 11 different midfield combinations in the last 33 matches and wants to see how Tuilagi and captain Tindall work together in the final World Cup warm-up match before the squad head for New Zealand.

The Leicester centre made his debut in the win over Wales at the start of the month but that was alongside Riki Flutey, who subsequently failed to make the squad for the tournament.

In the second warm-up match against Wales, Johnson went with Tindall and Hape but England lost 19-9. "Shontayne and Mike were a good combination in the Six Nations but Manu deserves another chance alongside Mike who will be at No12," said Johnson.

"We wanted to give Manu another start before the World Cup and we have a plan with what we want to do with guys like the uncapped Joe Simpson who is on the bench.

"Shontayne has a sore knee but was available for selection. However, we want to see this combination against Ireland and we will have lots of tough decisions to make. This is the team we believe is right for this week against Ireland.

"Like 15 other guys, Shontayne hasn't been picked but, as I have said, this is the right team for the opposition we are going to face. Mike and Manu look good in training and we will see how it goes."

Flood was England's first-choice flyhalf last season when the team won the Six Nations but missed out on the Grand Slam following defeat in Dublin. Wilkinson started in the role in the first warmup match and although Flood had the No10 shirt for the second it is the 2003 World Cup winner who will be in the XV on Saturday.

"Jonny and Floody have the trust of the other players," said Johnson. "Jonny has done it for a long time and after missing the autumn Tests, he has come back well and the two play slightly differently. …

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