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Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Friday, 11 February 2011

Six Nations: Corbisiero replaces Sheridan for England

Venue: Twickenham Stadium Date: Saturday, 12 February Kick-off: 1430 GMT
Coverage: Watch live on BBC One, HD, Red Button and BBC Sport website from 1400; listen on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; live text online and on mobiles


Italy side is their best ever - Johnson

England prop Andrew Sheridan has pulled out of Saturday's Six Nations game with Italy because of a back injury and been replaced by uncapped Alex Corbisiero.

Corbisiero was due to play for London Irish this weekend but will now make his Test debut at loose-head.

Manager Martin Johnson chose to promote the 22-year-old from the England Saxons squad rather than pick David Wilson, who remains on the bench.

"David covers loose-head but Alex has more experience there," said Johnson.

Corbisiero, who was born in New York before moving to England shortly before his fifth birthday, will form part of one of the youngest and most inexperienced front rows ever fielded by England.

Alex Corbisiero
Corbisiero will face the formidable Martin Castrogiovanni

He will scrum down with 24-year-old hooker Dylan Hartley and 23-year-old tight-head prop Dan Cole in a unit with a total of only 36 caps between them.

The 6ft 1in, 18 stone Corbisiero, who has an Italian great-grandfather, will come up against experienced Leicester prop Martin Castrogiovanni in what promises to be a formidable test.

However, Johnson has no doubt the debutant will handle the challenge.

"We think Alex is a solid character," he said. "We like solid characters. If you haven't got the character you can't go and play out there.

"That is what you need to be a Test player. It is whether they can handle the pressure and the physicality.

"He's strong, fit and he can play at this level. He's played against some of the best props in the world in the Premiership."

Corbisiero played for the Saxons over the last two weekends and, having trained with England earlier this week, had been expecting a Premiership game against Newcastle this weekend.

"As we walked off the training field on Tuesday, Alex was saying 'thanks for having me in'. I told him you are only an injury away from starting and you have got to be ready," Johnson added.

Corbisiero played for the United States at under-19 level and could also have qualified for Italy but chose England and featured in their under-20 side that won the Grand Slam in 2008.

Italy, meanwhile, have been forced to swap scrum-halves after Pablo Canavosio complained of "general fatigue".

Fabio Semenzato, brought into the squad this week after usual number nine Edoardo Gori injured a shoulder in last weekend's opening defeat by Ireland, will make his debut.

"Before training, Pablo, with a great sense of responsibility towards the team, informed us that he was still suffering from general fatigue and didn't feel up to being possibly used for 80 minutes," said team manager Luigi Troiani on Friday.

"The coaching staff have therefore decided to start Semenzato and use Canavosio if needed."

James Haskell was preferred at open-side flanker ahead of specialist number seven Hendre Fourie when Johnson named his original unchanged XV on Thursday.

Fourie displaces Wasps veteran Joe Worsley, who appeared as a replacement in the 26-19 win in Cardiff last weekend, on the bench.

Bryn Palmer blog

Northampton's Tom Wood and number eight Nick Easter complete the back row while Mike Tindall retains the captaincy.

In the backline, Toby Flood has cemented his place as Johnson's first-choice fly-half ahead of World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson, as Shontayne Hape keeps his place at centre.

Despite an apparent focus on a more expansive game since last year's championship during which his side scored six tries, Johnson insists his priorities remain unchanged.

"Number one is a win, number two is no serious injuries and number three is a good game," said Johnson.

"We want to win and from that is how we do it. We're here to win Test matches, let's make no bones about that.

"We know what they're about. They're a good team and a real challenge."

Italian captain and number eight Sergio Parisse will lead a physical forward pack, but England are expected to dominate in the backs.

Improving Italy deserve respect - Tindall

Bath's Hape will hope to make the most of the opportunity after admitting that he has struggled to recapture the form he showed in the autumn internationals.

The omission of Lions centre Riki Flutey from the squad means Wilkinson and winger Matt Banahan will offer cover in midfield.

Although neither's preferred role, Banahan started the autumn international against Samoa in midfield, while Wilkinson played outside Danny Cipriani against Ireland in 2008.

Louis Deacon, who was shown a yellow card after conceding a penalty deep in England's half in Cardiff, held off the challenge of 62-cap Simon Shaw in the second row.

Wood, one of four Saints players in the line-up, impressed on his debut in the victory over Wales, and the 24-year-old could pose a selection problem for Johnson once usual captain Lewis Moody returns.

Moody, an open-side flanker, hopes to make his comeback in England's third match of the competition against France on 26 February - leaving Wood and the more experienced Haskell to vie for the number six shirt.

Italy have won only twice in the last three Six Nations but led Ireland in the final five minutes of their match in Rome on Saturday.

A Ronan O'Gara drop-goal snatched a 13-11 victory for the visitors, however, to deny the Azzurri a rare win.

England side to play Italy:
Ben Foden (Northampton); Chris Ashton (Northampton), Mike Tindall (Gloucester, capt), Shontayne Hape (Bath), Mark Cueto (Sale); Toby Flood (Leicester), Ben Youngs (Leicester); Alex Corbisiero (London Irish), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Dan Cole (Leicester); Louis Deacon (Leicester), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais); Tom Wood (Northampton), James Haskell (Stade Francais), Nick Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: Matt Banahan (Bath), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon); Danny Care (Harlequins); Dave Wilson (Bath); Steve Thompson (Leeds); Simon Shaw (Wasps); Hendre Fourie (Leeds).

Italy: Luke McLean; Andrea Masi, Gonzalo Canale, Alberto Sgarbi, Mirco Bergamasco; Luciano Orquera, Fabio Semenzato; Salvatore Perugini, Leonardo Ghiraldini, Martin Castrogiovanni, Carlo Del Fava, Quintin Geldenhuys, Valerio Bernabo, Alessandro Zanni, Sergio Parisse (capt).
Replacements: Fabio Ongaro, Andrea Lo Cicero, Santiago Dellape, Robert Barbieri, Pablo Canavosio, Kris Burton, Gonzalo Garcia.

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see also
Six Nations weather forecast
12 Feb 11 |  News
England need to improve - Johnson
13 Feb 11 |  English
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy forced to make late change
11 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Highlights - Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Ashton rebuked after England win
09 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
McGeechan backs under-fire Hape
09 Feb 11 |  Bath
England can be better - Johnson
04 Feb 11 |  English
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Italy 11-13 Ireland
05 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations on the BBC
05 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union

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