reports from Johannesburg
When it came down to it, not even Jack Rowell had the nerve to pick a side exclusively on form in South Africa. So with one exception England will go in against Australia in Sunday's World Cup quarter-final in Cape Town with those who won the Five Nations' Championship.
This effectively means that those who have been thrusting hardest - Philip de Glanville at centre, for instance - cannot expect to be given another opportunity in the tournament. If England beat the Wallabies it is scarcely conceivable that they would then change for the semi-final against New Zealand or Scotland that would lie beyond.
The one clear form choice was Dewi Morris for Kyran Bracken at scrum- half, a preference the manager had signalled when Morris was picked for the first of England's pool games against Argentina, though that now seems a very long time ago.
Otherwise yesterday's selection can be taken by some, not least Jeremy Guscott, as a reprieve. "When you are playing in a World Cup - whenever you play for England - there is always pressure for places," Guscott said. "There were a number of close choices and centre was one."
The justification for Guscott's inclusion ahead of De Glanville is memory of past, and therefore the prospect of future, achievement rather than anything that has occurred during the World Cup. In any case, to have dropped him - and, according to Rowell, it was a tight decision - would have been an undeservedly dramatic stroke from the manager.
"Like all well-organised teams, changes in selection tend to be marginal," Rowell said. "We kicked it around, slept on it and came back to the team we first thought of." In every respect but Dean Richards at No 8, it is the team who fared so poorly while winning against the Pumas.
Had Rowell been contemplating further change, injuries have made up his mind for him. He could conceivably have judged there to be a need for more pace in the back row, even at the expense of height and weight, but then Neil Back pulled a hamstring.
The possibility of putting Graham Rowntree in at loose-head prop and shifting Jason Leonard to tight-head, which would have been at Victor Ubogu's expense, had to be aborted when Rowntree hurt an ankle, though he is now deemed likely to be fit enough to take his customary place, seated in frustration on the bench.
Likewise Bracken, whose ankle injury has been diagnosed as tendinitis. He has told Rowell he will be fit to be a replacement on Sunday - which in turn would mean that Andy Gomarsall's apparent expectation of filling that role after arriving in Cape Town from Australia today was wishful thinking.
Bracken did some work with the pack when England had their final pre- match public training session in Johannesburg yesterday, but Back and Rowntree were again confined to light exercise. As soon as the Australians returned from a 24-hour visit to a game park they trained behind closed doors and then announced their selection.
It differs in two positions from the team who lost the tournament's opening match to South Africa, Matthew Burke being preferred to Matthew Pini at full-back and Tim Horan to Daniel Herbert at centre.
The Wallabies still have nine of the players who beat England in the 1991 final at Twickenham compared with England's seven. That one of the Wallaby nine is the phenomenal Horan, who is back in the threequarter line on merit after having to have his left knee completely rebuilt, means the rugby world should rejoice.
ENGLAND (v Australia, Cape Town, Sunday): M Catt (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), J Guscott (Bath), R Underwood (Leicester); R Andrew (Wasps), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), V Ubogu (Bath), M Johnson (Leicester), M Bayfield, T Rodber (Northampton), D Richards (Leicester), B Clarke (Bath). Replacements: J Callard, P de Glanville (Bath), K Bracken (Bristol), G Rowntree, G Dawe, S Ojomoh (Bath).
AUSTRALIA: M Burke; D Campese (New South Wales), J Little, T Horan, D Smith (Queensland); M Lynagh (Queensland, capt), G Gregan (Australian Capital Territory); D Crowley (Queensland), P Kearns, E McKenzie (NSW), R McCall, J Eales (Queensland), W Ofahengaue, T Gavin (NSW), D Wilson (Queensland). Replacements: M Pini (Queensland), S Bowen (NSW), P Slattery (Queensland), M Hartill (NSW), M Foley (Queensland), D Manu (NSW).
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