Delon Armitage will start England’s Rugby World Cup opener against Argentina on the wing in place of Mark Cueto, who has been struggling with a back injury.
Nick Easter’s inclusion at No. 8 in place of James Haskell, who takes over at openside flanker from Hendre Fourie, is the only other change to the team that began England’s last match, a 20-9 win over Ireland in Dublin on Aug. 27.
“The great thing for us is that Delon’s playing very well,” England manager Martin Johnson said at a news conference today. “When you’ve got a guy who isn’t quite right and a guy in great form, it’s a pretty simple decision.”
Armitage, who is usually a full-back, is one of 10 England players who will feature in their first World Cup match on Sept. 10 in Dunedin, New Zealand, the Rugby Football Union said. Easter, prop Andrew Sheridan and fly-half Jonny Wilkinson are the only survivors from the team that started the 2007 World Cup final loss to South Africa in Paris.
Inside center Mike Tindall, who is deputizing as captain for the injured Lewis Moody, is one of three players in the starting lineup who began England’s victory over Australia in the 2003 final. Wilkinson and hooker Steve Thompson also started the 20-17 win in Sydney. Wilkinson, who kicked the winning drop-goal in that match, becomes the third England player to appear at four World Cups, joining Jason Leonard and Mike Catt.
“The young guys coming through are really excited and it shows in training, but us older players are pretty excited, too,” Sheridan said. “You don’t really get bored of World Cups.”
ENGLAND: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Mike Tindall (captain), Delon Armitage, Jonny Wilkinson, Richard Wigglesworth, Nick Easter, James Haskell, Tom Croft, Courtney Lawes, Louis Deacon, Dan Cole, Steve Thompson, Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: Dylan Hartley, Matt Stevens, Tom Palmer, Tom Wood, Ben Youngs, Toby Flood, Matt Banahan.