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Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

England drop Jonny Wilkinson for Toby Flood

RBS SIX NATIONS: France v England
Venue: Stade de France, Paris Date: Saturday, 20 March Kick-off: 1945 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC HD channel, Red Button and BBC Sport website; full commentary on BBC Radio 5 live


Johnson 'not lost faith in Wilkinson'

England have dropped fly-half Jonny Wilkinson for Saturday's final RBS Six Nations game against France in Paris - with Toby Flood taking his place.

Northampton's Ben Foden is named at full-back, with Chris Ashton making his debut on the left wing.

Centre Mike Tindall and lock Simon Shaw both start, while in the back row Lewis Moody is named on the open-side with Joe Worsley moving to the blind-side.

Skipper Steve Borthwick remains a doubt for the game with a knee injury.

The Saracens lock missed training on Wednesday and will spend two days with his leg in a brace.

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


England manager Martin Johnson said: "Steve's injury was a little bit more serious than first thought. I hoped the scan he went for yesterday would be clear but it showed something. He will be assessed again tomorrow."

Flanker James Haskell, who has started all of four of England's Six Nations games so far, is forced to settle for a place on the bench together with Wilkinson and Tait.

It is only the third time in his England career that Wilkinson has been dropped; the other occasions were for Paul Grayson at the 1999 World Cup and for Danny Cipriani in the 2008 Six Nations.

Wilkinson, who plays for French side Toulon, was passed fit for the game after taking a blow to the head in the turgid draw with Scotland last weekend but has paid the price for a disappointing campaign.

He has come in for heavy criticism this year as England's backline struggled for fluency.

Leicester back Flood started at inside centre in the opening victory over Wales and made an impact when replacing Wilkinson at Murrayfield last weekend.

"Jonny took a number of bangs and heavy blows," added Johnson. "You need a strong squad. Going forward the next 18 months towards a World Cup, we are going to need at least two of everything.

England want to play exciting rugby - Flood

"It's great that we've got Toby there and Jonny fighting it out and obviously the younger guys beneath them as well all pushing to get up. We would have been happy to pick Toby in every game so far."

And Flood told BBC Radio 5 live: "If you want to play international rugby you have to take your opportunities when they come. If it is France on Grand Slam night in Paris then fantastic - these are the reasons you play rugby.

"I am really looking forward to it. The good thing for us is that the pressure is all on them. We have not got anything to worry about.

"We are frustrated that we have not gone out there and expressed ourselves. People like Mike [Tindall] and Riki [Flutey], these are guys that play well with the ball in hand.

"We have to play that sort of rugby and use everybody's strengths."

Foden will make his long-awaited first start this weekend after two impressive performances from the bench against Ireland and Scotland.

England wing Chris Ashton
Ashton joined Saints from rugby league side Wigan in 2007

London Irish full-back Delon Armitage has struggled for form since returning from injury and has dropped out of the squad completely.

Wing Ugo Monye has a neck injury after a nasty clash of heads against Scotland and his absence allows the highly-rated Ashton to win his first cap.

The 22-year-old rugby league convert has been in prolific form for Northampton this season, scoring 19 tries in 25 games, and is the Premiership's leading try-scorer, although he normally plays for his club on the right wing.

Veteran Gloucester centre Tindall missed England's autumn internationals because of a hamstring injury but has been picked for his physical presence, with a view to countering destructive Frenchman Mathieu Bastareaud in midfield.

"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.

Ashton not overawed to be starting in Paris

"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. Chris Ashton's form has also been very good."

Shaw, 36, started the first three games of this year's Six Nations and returns to the second row in place of Louis Deacon after missing the match against Scotland with a shoulder problem.

England go into the match aiming for a third win of the campaign, after beating Wales and Italy, while France are chasing victory in a bid to land their first Grand Slam since 2004.

England team: Ben Foden (Northampton); Mark Cueto (Sale), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Riki Flutey (Brive), Chris Ashton (Northampton); Toby Flood (Leicester), Danny Care (Harlequins); Tim Payne (Wasps), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Joe Worsley (Wasps), Lewis Moody (Leicester), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: Steve Thompson (Brive), David Wilson (Bath), Louis Deacon (Leicester), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Ben Youngs (Leicester), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon), Mathew Tait (Sale).

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see also
Poitrenaud accepts favourites tag
14 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Bastareaud returns to France team
16 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
France 46-20 Italy
14 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Johnson rues lack of cutting edge
13 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Scotland v England match stats
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 15-15 England
13 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union

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