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Jeremy Guscott column

Jeremy Guscott
By Jeremy Guscott
Former Bath, England and Lions centre

Courtney Lawes
Lawes has made a big impression playing for Northampton

Saturday's England selection to face Australia is a Martin Johnson team, because he could have put in younger guys such as Courtney Lawes and Dylan Hartley but instead went with the more experienced options.

It's difficult to disagree with Johnson when it comes to second rows because he is the expert, but I have to say I'm disappointed Lawes is not starting in the second row.

He has taken the safety first approach because with Louis Deacon, what you see is what you get. But with Lawes you're taking a step into the unknown.

I want Lawes to get a run, no matter what the state of the game is, because the only way young guys like him can make an impression is by being given the opportunity.

I hope he'll get starts this season, not because Deacon is injured, but because Johnson is brave enough to pick him.

I want to see Jonny run the show and be the shop steward because he has got more experience than the rest of that backline put together

He's tried to blend the old with the new and there are some young guys to go with plenty of experience.

But I'm a bit surprised about Steve Thompson starting ahead of Hartley at hooker - it looks like another case of 'better the devil you know'.

Hartley has had hamstring problems this week but there's no way he'd have him on the bench if he's not fit to last a full 80 minutes.

This feels like a Churchill Cup team - it has a real unknown quality - and I'm looking forward to seeing how the backs go at Twickenham.


We know what Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto can do, but it is nice to see Danny Hipkiss get his chance - he deserves it after all the years he has been around and I hope he plays well.

It will be an odd-looking little midfield and make no mistake, it will be little.

Hipkiss, Shane Geraghty and Jonny Wilkinson are not the tallest, although what they lack in height, they more than make up for in other areas.

Hipkiss is very difficult to put down, he's very aggressive and very hard in the tackle.

Geraghty has been playing out of his skin and I hope he continues to do so, and it's great to see Jonny Wilkinson back in the side.

Jonny Wilkinson
Wilkinson has had a fresh lease of life since his move to play in France

I want to see Jonny run the show and be the shop steward because he has got more experience than the rest of that backline put together.

Up front it will be interesting to see how David Wilson goes at prop. I've not seen a lot of him but he's a young man a lot of people are talking about.

I want to be positive about England but Lewis Moody is not the link I think you need at open-side flanker.

If you want a guy to run for 80 minutes or even longer Moody is your man, but he's like a dog chasing a stick.

He won't stop and he has a great time but what he contributes in attack sometimes is a bit of a mystery.

There are a lot of caps in the shape of Moody, Steve Borthwick, Thompson, Wilkinson and Cueto.

There's also Andy Goode on the bench, James Haskell's been around for two or three seasons and even though Paul Hodgson has not got many caps he is experienced - I thought he would start to be honest.

I appreciate Danny Care is there because he's a bit quicker, but he's also more selfish, which doesn't always work for me.

I am excited about the backline and I'm looking forward to seeing how they function because you have got a mixture there.

Matt Banahan can bowl it up, Geraghty has been opening up defences all season, Hipkiss can smash his way through and you've got the likes of Monye to finish if required - I'm really looking forward to watching them go.

Jeremy Guscott was talking to BBC Sport's James Standley.

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see also
England pick Wilkinson & Thompson
04 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Geraghty ready for England start
04 Nov 09 |  Northampton
Jeremy Guscott Q&A
02 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Australia coach wary of Wilkinson
02 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Who is Courtney Lawes?
28 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Injury-hit England make changes
26 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Armitage to miss November Tests
15 Sep 09 |  English
Rugby union on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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