Cueto in as England name final team

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The Independent Online

Mark Cueto will replace the injured Josh Lewsey in England's team to play South Africa in the World Cup final on Saturday.

Lewsey misses out because of a hamstring injury suffered during the semi-final victory over France last weekend.

It will be Sale Sharks wing Cueto's fourth start of the tournament, but his first since the pool victory over Tonga almost three weeks ago.

Cueto has scored 13 tries during a 23-cap Test career and began the World Cup as England's full-back against the United States.

England head coach Brian Ashton has otherwise retained the team and replacements' bench on duty against France.

There are four starting line-up survivors from England's World Cup final triumph against Australia in 2003 - full-back Jason Robinson, fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, prop Phil Vickery and lock Ben Kay.

And centre Mike Catt, 36 last month, will become the oldest player to feature in a World Cup final.

Catt's midfield partner Mathew Tait, meanwhile, is the youngest England player to line up in a final, aged 21.

Ashton could have moved Tait from centre to wing, where he finished the France game, and handed Leicester centre Dan Hipkiss a start, but specialist wing Cueto has won the vote.

England have turned their World Cup campaign on its head, winning four successive games to reach their second successive final against all odds.

No country has ever successfully defended the Webb Ellis Trophy but South Africa will start as favourites after crushing England 36-0 in a pool encounter last month.

It was England's record World Cup defeat, but since then they have toppled Samoa, Tonga, Australia and France.

Ashton explained his selection thoughts to a packed press conference at England's team hotel in Paris, where he was flanked by Vickery and Wilkinson.

Ashton said: "As with every week, we discuss every position, and it was a pretty close call.

"It was the fact Mark has played a lot of international rugby in the back three, and we expect a fair old aerial bombardment on Saturday.

"We have played better since the first South Africa game - the squad is a lot closer. Every game has been a knockout game for us since then, and we've won every one.

"We had a team meeting on the Saturday morning after that game, and every single player was involved. It was a very open and honest meeting.

"The players have put in so much hard work.

"I think we have been written off since about June. This squad of players has consistently proved people wrong around the world.

"It is not only strength of character. There is a lot of ability that people haven't talked about. I really don't think that has been fully recognised."

And Vickery added: "We would like to be able to erase the memory of a 36-0 defeat, but unfortunately they don't go away.

"There were a lot of disappointed people in the England changing room that night.

"South Africa took their opportunities, but a huge amount has changed for us since then.

"It still hurts, but it's a World Cup final on Saturday - England versus South Africa - and whatever has heppened doesn't really count for anything.

"To know what true Test rugby is about you have got to play against South Africa. It is the most physical game you will ever face."

England team for the World Cup final against South Africa at Stade de France on Saturday

J Robinson (unattached); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tait (Newcastle), M Catt (London Irish), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); J Wilkinson (Newcastle), A Gomarsall (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), M Regan (Bristol), P Vickery (Wasps, capt), S Shaw (Wasps), B Kay (Leicester), M Corry (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: G Chuter (Leicester), M Stevens (Bath), L Dallaglio (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), P Richards (London Irish), T Flood (Newcastle), D Hipkiss (Leicester).