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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 March 2007, 13:06 GMT
Catt to lead much-changed England
Mike Catt in action for England last summer against Australia
Catt won the last of his 67 caps against Australia last summer
Captain Phil Vickery, fly-half Jonny Wilkinson and centre Andy Farrell have all been ruled out of England's RBS Six Nations Six Nations clash with France.

Injuries to the trio have prompted coach Brian Ashton to name a team featuring 11 changes, three positional, with the recalled Mike Catt as captain.

Fly-half Toby Flood and wing Jason Robinson also come into the backline.

Tim Payne, Julian White, Tom Palmer, Tom Rees and Nick Easter start in the pack, with Martin Corry moved to lock.

Flood, who has won four caps as a replacement, will start his first Test at stand-off after replacing his stricken Newcastle team-mate Wilkinson, who had scans on Monday for a hamstring strain and will not recover in time.

"Jonny has played three international matches and the fastest club game I've seen this season (Newcastle against London Irish), so it is bound to take its toll," Ashton said.

It was time for Mike Catt to come back into the side

Flood will have the vastly experienced Catt, 35, outside him, with Farrell sidelined with a back problem.

Ashton would not say whether a fit Farrell would have retained his place, only noting: "He was the top tackler in Dublin with 17 tackles, and he made two errors.

"He has copped a lot of flak for that, but it would be nice to see all the players making 17 tackles and two mistakes."

The absence of Vickery, concussed playing for Wasps on Sunday, sees White come in at tight-head prop, with Payne replacing Perry Freshwater at loose-head.

"The medical people said it would not be sensible for (Vickery) to play at the weekend," Ashton explained. "I have had a really long chat with Phil, and he is bitterly disappointed.

SIX NATIONS BLOG
BBC Sport's James Standley
"After something like the Ireland game, the guys want to get back out on the field again as soon as possible. And when you are captain as well, then it is a bit of a double whammy."

Vickery, Wilkinson and Farrell will continue to be assessed during the next few days, with Ashton unsure whether any of the three will regain full fitness in time for England's final Six Nations fixture in Wales on 17 March.

Robinson's recovery from a neck injury that forced him to miss the 43-13 thrashing by Ireland sees him return on the left wing, with David Strettle - who made an impressive debut in Dublin - moving to the right flank.

Josh Lewsey reverts to full-back in the injury-enforced absence of Olly Morgan.

Only four players - centre Mike Tindall, scrum-half Harry Ellis, hooker George Chuter and flanker Joe Worsley - remain in their starting positions from Croke Park.

Freshwater and lock Danny Grewcock are dropped from the squad altogether, while fellow lock Louis Deacon and flanker Magnus Lund are demoted to the bench.

Mike Catt is a talismanic figure in many ways

England coach Brian Ashton
Former captain Corry moves into the second row, where he has played just once before for England - against Uruguay in the 2003 World Cup.

"Martin Corry is a rugby warrior," Ashton said. "I am confident he can do the job.

"He is an outstanding lineout forward, and he will bring a little bit extra in terms of dynamism, which we will need if we are going to compete with the likes of France."

Corry will forge a new partnership with one of four Wasps in the pack, Tom Palmer, who impressed during the autumn but has had to settle for two outings off the bench since.

Rees will make his first Test start, after three replacement outings, on the open-side flank in place of Lund.

Easter, who made his debut against Italy at blind-side, starts in his usual club position of number eight.

Catt was recalled by former head coach Andy Robinson for last summer's tour to Australia after a two-year absence from Test rugby, but he has not featured since. Sunday will be his first Six Nations start since 2001.

"Mike has done a very good job as captain for London Irish this season," Ashton explained.

606: DEBATE
SK
"I have been involved with him since 1992 and, if there is any player in English rugby who knows how I want to develop the game, then it is Mike Catt.

"He is a player with a very wide range of skills, and he is a talismanic figure in many ways.

"He is very knowledgeable about the game, and he is excellent at talking to the players."

Ashton insisted Catt's age - he will be 36 in September - was "irrelevant".

"He is as fit and enthusiastic and lively as he ever was," Ashton told BBC Five Live. "I've no issues with his age at all. He is one of the fittest players in the Premiership.

"He's matured as a player over the years and I'm sure he will want to grasp this opportunity with both hands."


England team: Josh Lewsey (Wasps); David Strettle (Harlequins), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Mike Catt (London Irish), Jason Robinson (Sale); Toby Flood (Newcastle), Harry Ellis (Leicester); Tim Payne (Wasps), George Chuter (Leicester), Julian White (Leicester), Martin Corry (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Joe Worsley (Wasps), Tom Rees (Wasps), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath), Stuart Turner (Sale), Louis Deacon (Leicester), Magnus Lund (Sale), Shaun Perry (Bristol), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Mathew Tait (Newcastle).



SEE ALSO
Guscott's England verdict
06 Mar 07 |  Rugby Union
England 'now in second division'
06 Mar 07 |  English
Morgan to miss rest of the season
01 Mar 07 |  Gloucester
Ireland 43-13 England
24 Feb 07 |  Rugby Union


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