England are in dire straits going into Friday’s crucial Pool A match with South Africa. Jonny Wilkinson has been ruled out, and now stand-in fly-half Olly Barkley also looks set to miss the game after being injured in training – although he has been named in the side.
Captain Phil Vickery is awaiting the verdict on whether he will banned for the game after his trip on Paul Emerick of the USA, so England could face the Springboks without their leader and a regular fly-half. To make matters worse, Dan Hipkiss and Mathew Tait have been quarantined after coming down with illness, and so just 21 players have been named until the situation improves.
Lawrence Dallaglio and Joe Worsley are replaced in the back row by Nick Easter and Martin Corry, apparently to offer additional lineout options, whilst Mark Cueto is also dropped with Paul Sackey coming onto the wing and Jason Robinson moving to full-back.
Coach Brian Ashton is bemused at yet another injury away from the contact situation (after David Strettle and Wilkinson). He said of the latest setback, “It would be nice to think there were 10 people on the floor kicking hell out of him.”
The chances are that with this line-up, South Africa will be kicking hell out of England on Friday.
Robinson, Lewsey, Noon, Catt, Sackey; Barkley, Perry; Sheridan, Regan, Vickery (capt); Shaw, Kay; Corry, Rees, Easter. Replacements: Chuter, Stevens, Borthwick, Moody, Gomarsall, Farrell, TBA.