Friday, November 6, 2009

England V Australia Hospitality on Twickenham at Sat Nov 07, 2009

England v Australia (Sat)

Venue: Twickenham Date: 7 November Kick-off: 1430 GMT

Coverage: Commentary on 5 live, live text commentary on BBC Sport website; Highlights on BBC Three at 1915 and on Sunday, 8 November on BBC Two

A new-look England will look to Jonny Wilkinson to help launch the second year of Martin Johnson's reign with a Twickenham victory over Australia.

Wilkinson's return to Test duty for the first time in 18 months is a timely boost given a lengthy injury list.

Fellow World Cup winners Lewis Moody and Steve Thompson are also back, while Shane Geraghty, Matt Banahan, David Wilson and Jordan Crane get chances.

The Wallabies have won on two of their last three visits to west London.

But they arrive at Twickenham having lost six of their last seven Tests, albeit the defeats coming against southern hemisphere super-powers South Africa and New Zealand.

Under-pressure coach Robbie Deans is in no doubt as to what sort of challenge awaits his side as they play the first of successive Tests against the four home unions.

"It's going to be a ferocious contest," Deans said. "It's England at Twickenham, that's the way it is, we will have to work for everything we get."

England's preparations for their opening autumn Test have been affected by a raft of injuries, with only four of the players on duty in the corresponding fixture last year starting on Saturday.

But despite the disruptions, Johnson - whose managerial record reads five wins and six losses from his 11 Tests - believes his men are in better shape than 12 months ago, when they suffered heavy defeats by Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

"Even though there have been changes, the squad has a better feel to it in terms of spirit than it did," he said.

"For guys to go and win Test matches, you have to have trust in each other."

Wilkinson's return for the first time since the end of the 2008 Six Nations should provide reassurance to an inexperienced backline, with Geraghty starting his first Test outside the celebrated fly-half and fellow centre Dan Hipkiss only his fifth.

Ugo Monye, in the absence of the injured Delon Armitage, is switched from his usual wing position to full-back.

Thompson glad to be back

Up front there will be much interest in the return of hooker Thompson for his first Test start since 2006, having retired for nine months in 2007 before a second opinion on a neck injury.

With Nick Easter among the casualties, number eight Crane has a chance to establish his credentials in his first Test start, as does Wilson at tight-head prop, with veterans Phil Vickery and Julian White also sidelined.

Emerging lock Courtney Lawes and the powerful centre Ayoola Erinle could also make Test debuts as impact replacements.

Australia are also weakened by injuries, with Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane forming an inexperienced centre pairing in the absence of first-choice duo Berrick Barnes and Stirling Mortlock.

But seasoned flanker George Smith, the fifth most capped player in Test history as he prepares for his 107th Test, returns to bolster a solid pack led by the rugged Rocky Elsom.its a prepation of Six Nations

If their forwards generate sufficient ball, the Wallabies will pose a significant threat with ball in hand, with half-backs Will Genia and Matt Giteau providing the spark.

"When I think about Australia, I think of a certain professionalism, and a major strength is that tactically they can work better than any other team," says Wilkinson, who has tasted victory in his last six encounters with the Wallabies for England, including the 2003 World Cup final.

"You have to be 100% on your toes. As soon as you're not, they'll pull you apart."

England: U Monye; M Cueto, D Hipkiss, S Geraghty, M Banahan; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, S Thompson, D Wilson, L Deacon, S Borthwick (capt), T Croft, L Moody, J Crane.

Replacements: D Hartley, D Bell, C Lawes, J Haskell, P Hodgson, A Goode, A Erinle.

Australia: A Ashley-Cooper; P Hynes, D Ioane, Q Cooper, D Mitchell, M Giteau, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, J Horwill, M Chisholm, R Elsom (capt), G Smith, W Palu.

Replacements: T Polota Nau, M Dunning, D Mumm, D Pocock, L Burgess, R Cross, J O'Connor.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)

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