ENGLAND coach Martin Johnson insists the door is not closed on Lewis Moody after the Leicester flanker was dropped for Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland.
Moody was withdrawn after just 55 minutes of Saturday’s defeat to Ireland, and has now been replaced in the starting line-up by Joe Worsley, who returns for the first time since suffering knee ligament damage against New Zealand in November. Worsley, 32, is considered the toughest defender in the England ranks, and Johnson insists his inclusion is a tactical move rather than a reflection of Moody’s performance at Twickenham 11 days ago.
“It was a very tough call,” Johnson said. “It is not a reflection at all on how Lewis has played, it is more of a reflection on the strength and depth of the players we have in the squad.
“We felt it was the best call to put Joe in the starting team and have Lewis on the bench to make an impact. They are two different players. They can both play six and seven. There is not a weakness in Lewis’s game but Joe’s defence is good and his ball-carrying is particularly strong.
“It was the toughest selection we have had as a group. That is not because we lost the last game but the squad we have now puts pressure on players to perform.”
The good news for Johnson is that full-back Delon Armitage has recovered from a rib injury and keeps his place in the starting line-up, meaning the coach had just one other enforced change to make, Leicester’s Louis Deacon coming into the second row for Simon Shaw, who has a shoulder injury. Northampton’s exciting young lock, Courtney Lawes, takes his place on a reshuffled bench as cover, joining hooker Steve Thompson and Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs, 20, who is called up for the first time.
The winless Scots, meanwhile, bring in centre Nick de Luca in place of Simon Danielli in their only change from their defeat in Italy last week.
De Luca will form a centre partnership with Graeme Morrison with Max Evans moving to the wing to replace Danielli.
ENGLAND | XV TO PLAY SCOTLAND
15 D Armitage (London Irish); 14 M Cueto (Sale Sharks), 13 M Tait (Sale Sharks),
12 R Flutey (Brive), 11 U Monye (Harlequins);
10 J Wilkinson (Toulon), 9 D Care (Harlequins);
1 T Payne (Wasps), 2 D Hartley (Northampton),
3 D Cole (Leicester), 4 L?Deacon (Leicester),
5 S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), 6 J Haskell (Stade Francais), 7 J Worsley (Wasps), 8 N Easter (Harlequins). Replacements: S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), L Moody (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester), T Flood (Leicester), B Foden (Northampton)