ENGLAND have called Leicester No8 Tom Waldrom into their World Cup squad as concerns over the fitness of embattled skipper Lewis Moody intensify.
Officially, the uncapped Kiwi-born Waldrom, who only discovered last season that he was eligible to represent England through his grandmother, has been drafted in as cover for Nick Easter.
The Harlequins stalwart missed England’s 41-10 victory over Georgia on Sunday, but with Moody having lasted just 58 minutes of his comeback appearance in Dunedin, it appears that manager Martin Johnson is attempting to cater for a worst case scenario with regards to his captain’s fitness.
Moody missed the previous weekend’s victory over Argentina after suffering knee ligament damage in England’s first warm-up international against Wales on 6 August.
Moreover, the Bath flanker has played fewer than five full matches since initially injuring his knee in a Heineken Cup match in January, which ruled him out of the entire Six Nations campaign.
Johnson said yesterday: “Nick Easter is still suffering from a sore back so we will be bringing Thomas out as temporary cover.”
Waldrom is not the official replacement for prop Andrew Sheridan. The Sale loosehead suffered a tournament-ending shoulder injury in England’s 13-9 victory over Argentina but has yet to be replaced in Johnson’s squad.
Meanwhile, prop Matt Stevens suffered an ankle injury against Georgia while wing Chris Ashton hyper-extended his elbow in scoring his second try, although both players were confident the problems were not serious.
Attack coach Brian Smith also announced yesterday that wing Mark Cueto will be available for selection against Romania after overcoming a lower back problem which ruled him out of the opening two pool matches.
Smith also revealed he and the rest of the selectors face a difficult choice at fly-half between Jonny Wilkinson and Toby Flood once the knockout stages commence.
The battle between England’s World Cup winning No10 and his former Newcastle protege has represented one of the most intriguing sub plots of the Red Rose’s campaign thus far.
Flood was one of the better performers in England’s laboured win over Georgia, taking over from Wilkinson, who endured something of a personal nightmare, particularly with the boot, against Argentina.
“It’s a healthy competitive environment,” said Smith. “I thought Toby’s decision-making [against Georgia] was very good, his line-kicking was outstanding and he produced a very good performance.
“Physically, they’re different. Floody’s a taller player, he stands flatter, they’re both very good distributors, they both kick the ball very well and they’ve both got very good organisational skills.
“Wilko is more compact, plays deeper and likes to run on to the ball. Jonny’s got more experience and he’s won a World Cup. If your life depended on it, you’d throw him the ball to kick a goal.”
Flood, himself, meanwhile, yesterday joined Johnson and forward James Haskell in calling for a more composed performance against Romania on Saturday.
He said: “We’re probably not as smart or as savvy as we’d want to be at the moment. We’re doing things that are just a bit naive.”