Johnson’s pain at denying Riki homecoming

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson insists he wishes he could take Riki Flutey to the World Cup – but says the make-up of the squad proved more important than any individual.

The New Zealand-born Wasps centre was the highest-profile casualty as Johnson confirmed his trimmed down 30-man squad last night.

An injury to Danny Care means uncapped Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson instead goes to the tournament, which is being held in Flutey’s native country.

Johnson said: “The composition of the squad is very important and we think we have the right mix.

“There were some very tough phone calls made last week.

“Would I love to have Riki on the plane? Of course I would. It was tough on Riki, who has done nothing wrong. We just felt that was the best way to go.”

The absence of the versatile Flutey, who can also play at fly-half and even scrum-half, leaves Johnson with just three dedicated centres.

But he added: “You have to make a call somewhere. Utility is good but it is not the trump card. We felt we had to go with five props and four locks because of the attrition rate, and it was too big a risk to take two scrum-halves. Any solution leaves you slightly thin. We can probably cover at 10 a little bit easier than nine.”

Lewis Moody has been named as captain despite not being fully fit.