No Johnny for Ireland clash

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :In the news on 12 Mar 2008 at 08:00

Jonny Wilkinson was dropped from the England team announced on Tuesday by coach Brian Ashton for Saturday’s Six Nations rugby union international against Ireland here at Twickenham.

Report courtesy

Wilkinson, rugby union’s leading international points scorer, moved down to the bench and was replaced at flyhalf by Danny Cipriani with the 20-year-old Wasps rising star now set to make his first Test start.

Cipriani had been due to start in last Saturday’s 15-9 defeat against Scotland at fullback but was left out by Ashton as a disciplinary measure after being seen coming out late of a nightclub two days before the game.

Although Newcastle No 10 Wilkinson broke Neil Jenkins’s previous points world record last weekend, he was one of several England players to have had a poor game in the Calcutta Cup reverse at Murrayfield.

But Wilkinson, capped 69-times by England and the drop-goal hero of their 2003 World Cup final win, was, remarkably, the only one to lose his place in the starting line-up.

Not since 1999, when Wilkinson was left out of the starting side that lost to South Africa in the World Cup quarter-final in favour of Paul Grayson, as part of a “horses for courses” selection policy by then coach Clive Woodward, has he failed to be included in an England starting line-up when fit.

Wilkinson made his England debut against Ireland 10 years ago and broke Jenkins’s world points record of 1 090 for Wales and the British and Irish Lions at Murrayfield when he kicked the first of three successful penalties.

But in open play, notably kicking from hand and providing general tactical direction, he was well below par.

Cipriani, who has been playing stand-off at Wasps for most of this season, now has a chance to impress ahead of England’s two-Test tour of New Zealand in June, although, whatever happens on Saturday, his call-up is unlikely to spell the end of the 28-year-old Wilkinson’s Test career.

Wilkinson’s demotion meant Charlie Hodgson lost his place on the bench as a reserve back while the only other change to the matchday 22 saw James Haskell come in as a replacement forward instead of Luke Narraway.

England, who haven’t won the Six Nations since completing a Grand Slam in 2003 before they went on to win the World Cup that year, are currently fourth in the standings, behind third-placed Ireland on points difference with both sides having lost twice in this season’s Championship.

Another England defeat will inevitably lead to renewed calls for Ashton, who had a brief spell in charge of Ireland from 1997-98, to be sacked.

England under Ashton, who replaced Andy Robinson nearly 15 months ago, have lost 10 out of 21 Tests although they did upset the formbook to reach October’s World Cup final where they were beaten by South Africa in Paris.

The team:

England team to play Ireland in a Six Nations rugby union international at Twickenham here Saturday (15:00GMT kick-off):


Iain Balshaw; Paul Sackey, Jamie Noon, Toby Flood, Lesley Vainikolo; Danny Cipriani, Richard Wigglesworth; Nick Easter, Michael Lipman, Tom Croft; Steve Borthwick, Simon Shaw; Phil Vickery (capt), Lee Mears, Andrew Sheridan

Replacements: George Chuter, Matt Stevens, Ben Kay, James Haskell, Paul Hodgson, Mathew Tait, Jonny Wilkinson


  • The Newcastle Falcons players are very upset – some of the coaching staff have lost their jobs too. Toby Flood has come out in the press saying how upset they all are. Thinking about it, have they ever thought of playing Jonny at 15? I have always thought that I would have hated to play centre outside him anyway, so maybe this will help the English backline play with some pace?

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