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Page last updated at 12:01 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Cipriani axed from England team

Venue: Twickenham Date: Saturday, 29 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT Coverage: Live on Sky Sports and BBC Radio 5 Live. Highlights on BBC Three (Saturday, 1910 GMT) and BBC Two (Sunday, 1510 GMT), BBC Red Button and BBC Sport website. Live text commentary on BBC Sport website


Johnson explains team selection

England fly-half Danny Cipriani has been dropped for Saturday's Test against New Zealand, with Leicester's Toby Flood taking his place.

Cipriani, 21, criticised for under-par displays against Australia and South Africa, is named on the bench.

Bath's Michael Lipman comes in on the open-side flank for Tom Rees, who is also among the replacements.

Lock Nick Kennedy replaces Tom Palmer in the final change while Leicester's Dan Hipkiss is in the match-day 22.

There is no place for Sale prop Andrew Sheridan, who has failed to recover sufficiently from the neck injury that ruled him out of defeat by South Africa last weekend.

England replacement Danny Cipriani
If I was coach, I would probably have done the same thing

Danny Cipriani
However, Wasps inside centre Riki Flutey retains his place after overcoming a hamstring problem.

Centre Hipkiss is named on the bench as England manager Martin Johnson opts for a split of four forwards and three backs among the replacements.

Johnson has stuck to his word and has resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes to the team, despite the record Twickenham defeat they suffered at the hands of South Africa on Saturday.

He has only made three changes for the clash with New Zealand, who are just one win away from completing a 'grand slam' over the home nations this autumn.

Cipriani is the highest-profile casualty.

The Wasps half-back, who returned to action at the start of October following a horrific fractured ankle dislocation in May, has struggled to impose himself from half-back.

He had two kicks charged down which led to tries against the Pacific Islanders and South Africa while against Australia he produced an erratic kicking display.

"Danny has been through a physical contest, he has not been through a car wreck," England attack coach Brian Smith told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He is a young guy and is very resilient. He is ambitious and he is an outstanding talent. We are going to continue to support him and back him.

"In our judgement it was the best time to take him out of the front line and give him a chance to get involved on the bench.

"We are not backing away from our commitment in terms of developing this young nine-10 combination. It just so happens there is healthy competition in the squad and we think Toby deserves his opportunity."

And Johnson insisted that Cipriani still has an important job to play this weekend, even though he is not part of the team.

"Danny has a role to play this week, just not a starting one," said Johnson. "The guys coming off the bench are important, the days of replacements not being involved are over.

"Danny has a long future in the international game but so has Toby Flood and there are plenty of good players to choose from.

"Danny wanted to play, he was disappointed but understands there are only 15 who can start and seven on the bench."

For his part, Cipriani refused to criticise the decision and instead offered his support to the England manager.

"It has been a massive learning curve the last three games and hopefully I can move on and get back to being me," Cipriani told BBC Radio Five Live.

"Against South Africa I probably felt a bit overloaded and it didn't go to plan but I know there is more from me to give at international level.

"I can understand where Martin Johnson is coming from. If I was coach, I would probably have done the same thing."

Flood will earn his 22nd cap when he lines up against the All Blacks this weekend and the 23-year-old says he is determined to take the opportunity.

"I hope to make a mark," he said. "I've been waiting with bated breath to get a chance.

"It's difficult when you're waiting for an opportunity but I was happy the way I was playing at Leicester. You can only work as hard as you can.

"All you can do is give your very best. That is the main thing. I would have been disappointed not to be involved in the game."

While Cipriani's omission was largely expected, the axing of Wasps flanker Rees was more of a surprise.

Rees was widely praised for his display against the Springboks with former England number eight Lawrence Dallaglio saying he was one of the only players that could "hold his head up high" after the match.

Johnson admitted that it was Rees's "best game of the whole series" but added: "We wanted to give Mike a start somewhere in the series. He is fresh and eager to go."

Kennedy will win his second Test cap in place of Palmer, who was taken off after just 32 minutes of the South Africa game with what England said was a calf injury.

London Irish second row Kennedy made his debut against the Pacific Islanders, scoring a try in the 39-13 victory, but was dropped for the matches against Australia and South Africa.

Johnson said this week is going to be a "real test of character" for his players as they try to bounce back from the Springbok defeat.

England must now beat the All Blacks for the first time since the summer of 2003 if they are to be seeded in the top four at the 2011 World Cup draw, which takes place on Monday.

"It's a tough week," he said. "You get beaten and get blown out by the score. We came in Monday and addressed that and they trained pretty well.

"When you play for England and get beaten like that there is everything to deal with. It's a test for all of us.

"We are all disappointed with the way we played. If you let the All Blacks play they will look very good, we have got to stop them playing. We have been too easy to score against.

"We need to make it harder, we need to be in the game with 15 minutes to go.

"It is all about this week now. We are playing the best team in the world and I still think a victory over the All Blacks is one of the things to achieve as a British or Irish player."

Johnson played in three victories, in 1993, 2002 and 2003, and one draw - in 1997 - against New Zealand, losing to the All Blacks on three occasions.

England: Delon Armitage (London Irish); Paul Sackey (Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Ugo Monye (Harlequins); Toby Flood (Leicester), Danny Care (Harlequins); Tim Payne (Wasps), Lee Mears (Bath), Phil Vickery (Wasps), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, capt), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), James Haskell (Wasps), Michael Lipman (Bath), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Matt Stevens (Bath), Tom Croft (Leicester), Tom Rees (Wasps), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Dan Hipkiss (Leicester).

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see also
Smith back in New Zealand line-up
25 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Jeremy Guscott column
24 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
Boks loss humiliating - Woodward
24 Nov 08 |  English
England need Wilkinson - Pienaar
23 Nov 08 |  English
Johnson says defeat was 'brutal'
22 Nov 08 |  English
Honeymoon over for Johnson
23 Nov 08 |  English
England 6-42 South Africa
22 Nov 08 |  English
Sheridan to miss Springbok Test
20 Nov 08 |  English
England 14-28 Australia
15 Nov 08 |  English
England 39-13 Pacific Islanders
08 Nov 08 |  English

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related internet links:
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Guardian Unlimited England 6-42 South Africa - as it happened - 46 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Rugby union: England 6-42 South Africa - as it happened - 46 hrs ago
Sky Sports England v S Africa: Teams - 21 Nov 2008
Guardian Unlimited Sheridan ruled out of South Africa match with neck injury - 20 Nov 2008
The Times Sheridan ruled out of South Africa match - 20 Nov 2008


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