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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Wilkinson makes England comeback
Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson will make his first appearance in World Cup 2007
England v Samoa
Stade de la Beaujoire, Nantes
Saturday, 22 September
Kick-off: 1500 BST
Live coverage on BBC Radio 5live & the BBC Sport website

England coach Brian Ashton has made seven changes including one positional switch for the crucial clash with Samoa in Pool A in Nantes on Saturday.

Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson returns after missing the first two games with an ankle injury, while Josh Lewsey moves from wing to full-back.

Olly Barkley, Mark Cueto, Mathew Tait, Joe Worsley and George Chuter also come in after the 36-0 loss to South Africa.

Shaun Perry and Mike Catt drop from the 22, while Martin Corry stays captain.

"Quite a few of the changes are down to players being available again and players who did play against South Africa being injured - one who's gone home and one who is walking slowly and very gingerly around the hotel - so that accounts for at least four changes," said Ashton.

606: DEBATE

"There aren't many more than that, to be honest, so it doesn't smack of desperation at all. A lot of it is needs must."

Wilkinson, who has been plagued by injury since kicking the winning drop-goal in the 2003 World Cup final, damaged ankle ligaments in training before the tournament and was replaced by the impressive Barkley for the opening win over USA.

"I completely rolled my ankle, heard a load of noise and was in real agony. I pretty much resigned myself to the understanding that that was probably it," said Wilkinson.

"But the scan result was as good as I could have hoped and I guess I've always been hoping that this time would come."

Jason Robinson (left) and Josh Lewsey
Josh has been outstanding on this trip

Brian Ashton

Barkley then picked up a training ground injury himself and Ashton opted for the then 35-year-old veteran Catt at fly-half against South Africa, with Andy Farrell named as goal-kicker.

Wilkinson will now resume kicking duties, with the fit-again Barkley playing at inside centre in place of Farrell, who drops to the bench.

"We've got our two best kickers on the field and arguably our two best distributors as well and that will help to get a bit more balance into our game," said Ashton.

"Obviously, Jonny has achieved great things for England rugby and to have players in there who have done that helps build confidence. Olly Barkley has been the form inside back and it was a great shame he wasn't fit last week."

Lewsey's switch to full-back comes after Jason Robinson limped off with a hamstring injury late on against South Africa, though the former skipper could return for the final pool match with Tonga.

Cueto takes Lewsey's spot on the wing, outside centre Tait replaces Jamie Noon, who sustained tournament-ending knee ligament damage against the Springboks, and Gomarsall plays instead of Perry at scrum-half.

Joe Worsley
I appreciate Joe is not an out-and-out seven but we are going to play in a particular way in this game

Brian Ashton

Ashton said during the Six Nations that he would only consider Lewsey as a winger but admitted to making a U-turn.

"I know I did say that," added Ashton. "I still think Mark Cueto has a future as an international 15 but he has not played a lot of rugby there and he has not made the progress quite as quickly as we would have hoped.

"Josh has been outstanding on this trip. His mindset is excellent and I've not got the slightest problem about him playing full-back.

"He's always done a job for us before. Mark Cueto will play far more effectively on the wing where he has done it successfully at international level."

Up front, Worsley is selected as an open-side flanker instead of Tom Rees, while Chuter plays at hooker in place of Mark Regan.

"Tom is still an emerging international player and he's done a fantastic job for England but we felt Joe was more what was needed against Samoa," said Ashton.

I don't think England have hit the panic button

5live rugby commentator Ian Robertson

"Joe has shown in games for his club that he can be a big, big tackler in big games and if ever there was a game for him to stand up and be counted on that score it is against Samoa.

"I appreciate he's not an out-and-out seven but we are going to play in a particular way in this game and Joe will have a big part in that."

BBC 5live rugby commentator Ian Robertson said: "I don't think England have hit the panic button. This looks a more exciting back division by a very long way than either of the ones that played against America or South Africa.

"The back row didn't have such a good game (against South Africa) and I'm surprised there's only one change there.

"The pack should be able to cope comfortably with Samoa and now England have a back division that ought to be good enough to score two or three tries to win this game comfortably."

  • Samoa full-back and goal-kicker Gavin Williams will miss the match after fracturing a bone in his hand in the match against Tonga.

    Williams has notched all of his side's World Cup points so far, scoring and converting a try in the 7-59 loss to South Africa and kicking five penalties in the 15-19 defeat to the Tongans.


    England team to face Samoa: Lewsey; Sackey, Tait, Barkley, Cueto; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Chuter, Stevens, Shaw, Kay, Corry (capt), Worsley, Easter.
    Replacements: Regan, Freshwater, Borthwick, Moody, Richards, Farrell, Hipkiss.



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