Comments Off on Toby Flood has been handed a dramatic late call-up by England coach Martin Johnson to face France at centre

Toby Flood has been handed a dramatic late call-up by England coach Martin Johnson to face France at centre

Toby Flood has been handed a dramatic late call-up into the England side to face France in the World Cup quarter-final in Auckland on Saturday, Telegraph Sport can disclose.

imageFlood is to start the match alongside fly-half Jonny Wilkinson at inside centre as a replacement for Mike Tindall in a bold move by England manager Martin Johnson as his side aim to book a place in the semi-finals for the third tournament in succession.

Tindall, who has been the centre of the off-field controversy that has marred England’s campaign, has sat out training so far this week as he recovers from a dead leg he sustained against Scotland and will not be risked against France.

Flood, who hasn’t started a match for England at inside centre since the 30-17 victory over Wales in the Six Nations at Twickenham in February 2010, came off the bench to play at 12 during the final World Cup warm-up match against Ireland in August and in the final pool victory over Scotland at Eden Park last Saturday.

But the decision to start him out of position will likely to be seen as Johnson’s biggest call of his World Cup campaign.

Shontayne Hape, the London Irish centre, had been Johnson’s first choice 12 all of last season and the former New Zealand rugby league international scored twice in England’s victory over Georgia, his last appearance of the campaign.

Bath’s Matt Banahan also has significant experience of playing in the midfield. Flood’s inclusion against France however will give England greater kicking options, which will take the pressure off Wilkinson, as well as provide the side with greater distribution options.

He had been putting mounting pressure on Wilkinson for the fly-half shirt, having created England’s match-winning score for Chris Ashton against Scotland and in light of Wilkinson’s poor place-kicking return during the tournament.

Mark Cueto is set to return on the left wing in place of the suspended Delon Armitage in the only other expected change to the starting line-up.

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