England will travel to the Rugby World Cup with just one specialist inside centre after Riki Flutey was omitted from the 30-man tournament squad.
England leave Riki Flutey behind for Rugby World Cup
LONDON // England will travel to the Rugby World Cup with just one specialist inside centre after Riki Flutey was omitted from the 30-man tournament squad.
With Manu Tuilagi having emerged as a potential match-winner during the warm-ups, team manager Martin Johnson left out Flutey to make way for the Samoan-born centre.
An injury to Danny Care led to the inclusion of the uncapped Joe Simpson as a third scrum-half, taking up another spot in the squad. Toby Flood or Jonny Wilkinson could have to switch from fly-half as backup to Shontayne Hape despite the pair having played together only once in the last four years.
The New Zealand-born Flutey made his England debut against the Pacific Islanders in 2008 and was a regular through the 2009 and 2010 Six Nations competitions. But he missed this year's competition because of injury and only came back for this month's warm-up win over Wales.
Hape, who was also born in New Zealand, is less subtle than Flutey but replaced him for England's successful Six Nations campaign and has been selected for his defensive game.
"The composition of the squad is very important and we think we have the right mix in this group," Johnson said. "There were some very tough phone calls made last week.
"For us now though it is important to look forward. There is great sense of unity in this group and we are pleased with the depth across the squad.
But England has been criticised by fans and pundits for a lack of adventure and enterprise in midfield, a failing that was highlighted in their defeat to Wales. England visited the Welsh 22 just 10 times without scoring a try.
Hape, the 20-year-old Tuilagi and Mike Tindall - one of five players to survive from the 2003 World Cup-winning squad — are the centres. Matt Banahan can also play there, with the selection of the backs apparently driven by a desire for flexibility.
Mark Cueto and Chris Ashton are the only specialist wings, although Banahan and Simpson can also fill in, as can Delon Armitage - who will compete with Ben Foden for the fullback slot.
Ben Youngs is first-choice scrum-half, with Richard Wigglesworth in reserve.
Openside Lewis Moody was selected as captain despite not having fully recovered from the knee injury that forced him from the field of the first match against Wales on August 6.
"We have a number of leaders and experienced players and have named Lewis Moody as squad captain, we are confident he will play a pivotal role for us in New Zealand," Johnson said.
"Ultimately our aim this week is to prepare well for Ireland and to continue improving as a team. We are all looking forward to the tournament and know that selecting the 30 man squad is just the beginning."
Moody, Nick Easter, Tom Croft, Tom Wood and James Haskell - who has played more times under Johnson than any other player - are the back-row options in a 17-strong forward contingent.
Dan Cole, Matt Stevens, Andrew Sheridan, Alex Corbisiero and David Wilson the props and Dylan Hartley, Steve Thompson and Lee Mears the hookers.
The 37-year-old Simon Shaw is the oldest man in the squad and one of four locks alongside Courtney Lawes, Louis Deacon and Tom Palmer.
Cueto, Wilkinson, Easter, Moody, Shaw, Stevens, Sheridan and Flood all played in the 2007 World Cup final, which England lost 15-6 to South Africa.
Forwards: Dan Cole, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, Louis Deacon, Nick Easter, Dylan Hartley, James Haskell, Courtney Lawes, Lee Mears, Lewis Moody, Tom Palmer, Simon Shaw, Andrew Sheridan, Matt Stevens, Steve Thompson, David Wilson, Tom Wood.
Backs: Delon Armitage, Chris Ashton, Matt Banahan, Mark Cueto, Toby Flood, Ben Foden, Shontayne Hape, Joe Simpson, Mike Tindall, Manu Tuilagi, Richard Wigglesworth, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs.