Hodgson retains England place after nightmare

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The Independent Online

Andy Robinson refused to make sweeping changes yesterday when he announced the England team charged with avoiding a third straight Six Nations Championship defeat this season when they play Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

Andy Robinson refused to make sweeping changes yesterday when he announced the England team charged with avoiding a third straight Six Nations Championship defeat this season when they play Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Sunday.

A catalogue of injuries has denied the England coach much in the way of choice and as a result only one change is made to the side that lost 18-17 to France at Twickenham 10 days ago, with Charlie Hodgson keeping his place despite his kicking nightmare in the last match.

Matt Stevens, the 22-year-old Bath prop, replaces Phil Vickery, who broke his arm at the weekend while on club duty and becomes the third different tight head in three games, with Leicester's Julian White out of action because of a neck injury. The South Africa-born Stevens, who qualifies for the world champions through an English parent, will make his first Test start following two substitute appearances against New Zealand last summer.

Robinson has made three notable alterations on the bench. Stevens' Bath front-row colleague Duncan Bell, who had ambitions of playing for Wales last year, takes over from the injured Andrew Sheridan in providing prop cover, while the Leicester backs Andy Goode and Ollie Smith also feature.

The fly-half Goode is uncapped, but Robinson clearly believes he needs goalkicking back-up. Smith has been in fine club form.

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