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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 September 2007, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
England face crisis at fly-half
Olly Barkley
Barkley's injury is another blow to England's hopes
England v South Africa
Stade de France, Paris
Friday, 14 September
Kick-off: 2000 BST
Live coverage on BBC Radio 5live & the BBC Sport website

England could start the crunch World Cup match against South Africa on Friday without a regular fly-half after Olly Barkley was injured in training.

Barkley has been named in England's XV but faces a scan on a hip injury, while Jonny Wilkinson is not in the 22.

Lawrence Dallaglio, Mark Cueto and Joe Worsley are dropped, while skipper Phil Vickery is banned.

Matt Stevens, Nick Easter, Martin Corry and Paul Sackey come in, with Jason Robinson moving to full-back.

Stevens replaces Vickery, Easter comes in for Dallaglio at number eight, while Corry steps in for Worsley at flanker and Sackey starts on the left wing.

The other changes are on the bench where Steve Borthwick will provide second-row cover, as Corry is promoted to the starting XV, while Andy Gomarsall takes over from Peter Richards as back-up to Shaun Perry.

Ashton said the Barkley injury, a strained hip flexor, was just another piece of bad luck for the team, coming after the injury that ruled Dave Strettle out of the tournament altogether, and Wilkinson out of the first two games - all three of them non-contact training incidents.

"There was no-one anywhere near him - as usual for an England injury," he said ruefully.

"It would be nice to think there were 10 people on the floor kicking hell out of him," he joked.

Ashton could have a major dilemma on his hands if both Barkley and Wilkinson, who could still be involved depending on the speed of his recovery, are ruled out of Friday's game.

England coach Brian Ashton
Ashton has plenty to think about ahead of the South Africa game

If Barkley's injury is deemed serious enough to keep him out of contention for both Friday's game and England's next pool game against Samoa, they are likely to send for a replacement, with either Toby Flood or Charlie Hodgson likely to be flown out.

World Cup rules state a player can only be replaced on medical or compassionate grounds, which has to be ratified by a tournament medical officer.

If England want a replacement to be involved in Friday's game, such a move would need to be ratified by 2000 BST on Wednesday, 48 hours before kick-off against South Africa.

Alternatively, Ashton might decide to start with Mike Catt or Andy Farrell at number 10, with the other playing centre, although he would then have no back-up fly-half cover on the bench.

"If Olly is not fit and Jonny becomes fit, then problem solved," Ashton said. "But that is just speculation until we know the extent of Olly's injury."

Just to make England's situation worse, Mathew Tait and Dan Hipkiss have been ill and in isolation since the weekend, which is why there is no back three replacement yet in the 22-man squad, which includes one unallocated place on the bench.

Ashton admitted the decision to replace Cueto at full-back was one that had to be taken.

This is a game which could be determined by line-outs, so it's important to have a big line-out presence in the back row

Brian Ashton

"He's been struggling a bit to find his form, both in the warm-up games and against America," he said.

"He's got a bit of a niggle with a groin injury which might have had some influence (on his play).

"I spoke to Jason Robinson and asked if he was happy to play at full-back, and he's very keen to - it was the obvious choice to make."

Other than the enforced absence of Vickery, the other two personnel changes from the win over the United States are in the back row, with Worsley and former captain Dallaglio the players to make way.

"No-one is dropped in a World Cup tournament, you just pick a different team," said Ashton when asked about the omission of Dallaglio.

"This is a game which could be determined by line-outs, so it's important to have a big line-out presence in the back row.

"That's the reason for putting Martin Corry in - he's played there before, including in the warm-up games, and it was pretty successful in the set-piece.

"If we scrummage well, it gives us the opportunity to do things from the base of the scrum, which we think Easter is pretty adept at.

"He scrummaged reasonably well in South Africa and hopefully this game will give him a chance to show what he's capable of with the ball in his hand."

Revised England team to play South Africa in Stade de France, Friday 14 September:
Robinson; Lewsey, Noon, Catt, Sackey; Barkley, Perry; Sheridan, Regan, Stevens, Shaw, Kay, Corry, Rees, Easter.
Replacements: Chuter, Freshwater, Borthwick, Moody, Gomarsall, Farrell, AN Other.

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