Rugby Union: Wigglesworth to start for England against France
Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth is to make his first Test start for England after being named as one of three changes in coach Brian Ashton's side
BATH, England, Feb 20, 2008 - Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth is to
make his first Test start for England after being named as one of three
changes in coach Brian Ashton's side for Saturday's Six Nations rugby union
international away to France.
The 24-year-old Sale back replaced World Cup No 9 Andy Gomarsall, the man
he came off the bench for on his Test debut in Rome during England's narrow
23-19 victory over Italy during the second round of the Six Nations on
Ashton made it clear the 33-year-old Gomarsall, omitted completely from the
matchday 22, had been dropped on form grounds and not because of a back spasm
that ruled him out of playing for Harlequins last weekend.
"He's not really hit the sort of form he showed at the World Cup last year,
We needed more energy to raise tempo of game but that applies to the whole
team," Ashton told reporters at a news conference at the squad's hotel here on
"We hope Richard Wigglesworth will increase the tempo of our game and pick
the right variations. He's a very good all-round player."
But Ashton insisted Gomarsall, whose England career began in 1996, was not
finished as a Test player.
"Andy Gomarsall has said he wants to fight back which is what you want to
hear as a coach."
Wigglesworth was one of three changes to the starting side with fit-again
props Phil Vickery, the England captain, and Andrew Sheridan returning in
place of Matt Stevens and Tim Payne.
Vickery, resuming the captaincy from lock Steve Borthwick, was laid low by
a stomach bug while Sheridan was sidelined by an infected cut on his heel.
The bench featured the uncapped duo of London Irish scrum-half Paul
Hodgson, taking Wigglesworth's spot amongst the replacments, and Tom Croft,
the highly-regarded Leicester back-row.
Hodgson, like Wigglesworth, has risen to prominence this season and his
England cause would have been helped by an impressive display for London Irish
in their win over Premiership champions Leicester at the weekend.
Ashton said of Hodgson: "He's the sort of scrum-half I like.
"He reminds me of an Australian Test wicket-keeper, like Rodney Marsh or
Ian Healy, who are always encouraging their side in the field when things
aren't going so well, he never shuts up."
England, currently fourth in the table, struggled to impose themselves
during the second-half against both Wales and Italy.
"In both games, we've not played like we've wanted to but I think we've
only been one score away from pulling away before half-time," said Ashton.
Reigning champions France, under new coach Marc Lievremont, top the
standings after wins over both Scotland and Ireland and have reverted to their
traditional running game, largely abandoned under Bernard Laporte.
Ashton, who described the Stade de France, as the "best rugby ground in the
world," said: "From a personal point of view, this is my favourite
game. "I'm delighted to see France playing the sort of rugby they
are playing. It would be great if we could beat them at their own game."
Earlier Tuesday, Lievremont announced changes across the team that hung on
to beat Ireland 26-21.
But Ashton said it was England who'd influenced French selection, not the
other way round.
"I think they've second-guessed what we would pick and picked something to
match what they think we would do."
Saturday's match is the first Anglo-French clash since October's World Cup
semi-final at the Stade de France where England, who lost in the final against
South Africa, won 14-9.
Iain Balshaw; Paul Sackey, Jamie Noon, Toby Flood, Lesley Vainikolo; Jonny
Wilkinson, Richard Wigglesworth; Nick Easter, Michael Lipman, James Haskell;
Steve Borthwick, Simon Shaw; Phil Vickery (capt), Mark Regan, Andrew Sheridan
Replacements: Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Ben Kay, Tom Croft, Paul Hodgson,
Danny Cipriani, Mathew Tait