Cipriani dropped from England team

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The Independent Online

Danny Cipriani has been dropped from the England team to play New Zealand on Saturday.

Leicester's Toby Flood will replace Cipriani at fly-half as one of three changes made by manager Martin Johnson following last weekend's record Twickenham defeat to South Africa.

Flanker Tom Rees has been dropped to the bench with Michael Lipman to start on the open-side while Nick Kennedy returns to the second row in place of Tom Palmer.

Prop Andrew Sheridan has missed out with a neck injury but New Zealand-born inside centre Riki Flutey has recovered from a hamstring problem to line up against the All Blacks.

Johnson had promised there would be no sweeping changes to the side crushed 42-6 by the Springboks last weekend - but the decision to replace Cipriani with Flood was not unexpected.

Cipriani recovered from a gruesome dislocated fracture of the ankle six weeks early in order to play for England this autumn but he has failed to live up to the huge expectations.

The 21-year-old awarded himself just five out of 10 for his performance in the win over the Pacific Islands before struggling technically and tactically against both Australia and the Springboks.

Cipriani has had two kicks charged down this autumn that have led directly to tries - against the Pacific Islanders and South Africa - and there remain concerns over his defence.

Flood's last England start came against the All Blacks in the second Test of the summer tour to New Zealand.

The decision to replace Rees with Lipman came as a surprise given the Wasps flanker was one of the England players to have impressed against the Wallabies and Springboks.

Kennedy will win his second Test cap in place of Palmer, who suffered a calf injury against the Springboks.

Johnson has opted to changed the balance of England's replacement bench to four forwards and three backs, opening the way for Leicester's Dan Hipkiss to return to squad.

Johnson insisted Cipriani will still have an important role despite being demoted to the bench.

He told a press conference broadcast Sky Sports News: "We are picking the team for this game we think has the best chance of winning.

"In the view of the whole thing, every game we play we pick the team accordingly.

"Danny is on the bench and is still involved.

"All these games are a squad effort. He has a role to play this week, just not a starting role.

"Coming off the bench these guys have an important role, they are on the field at the end of the game, he is on the bench and so are a number of other good players."

The England supremo continued: "Danny has got a long future in the international game but so has Toby Flood so there are plenty of good players to choose from.

"Other options, other players.

"He wanted to play, he was disappointed but understands there are only 15 who can start and seven on the bench.

"They all have a role to play.

"He's in the 22 and will have a role to play on Saturday."

Johnson also reacted to Sir Clive Woodward's questioning of the lack of player development since England won the World Cup in 2003.

He said: "He's been pretty vocal. We are where we are with this team. At the end of this series they will be a few steps down the road.

"There is no point looking back to 2003 and now we are here with these players."

He admitted the defeat by South Africa and its aftermath had been difficult but looked forward to Saturday's game.

"It's a tough week," he said. "You get beaten and get blown out by the score.

"It's going to be a test of our character, we came in Monday and addressed that and they trained well. When you play for England and get beaten like that there is everything to deal with. It's a test for all of us to bounce back.

"We are all disappointed with the way we played.

"If you let the All Blacks play they will look very good, we have got to stop them playing , we have been too easy to score against.

"We need to make it harder, we need to be in that game with 15 minutes to go.

"It's about us bouncing back. You lose games in sport."

England team to play New Zealand at Twickenham on Saturday:

England: 15-Delon Armitage, 14-Paul Sackey, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Riki Flutey, 11-Ugo Monye, 10-Toby Flood, 9-Danny Care; 8-Nick Easter, 7-Michael Lipman, 6-James Haskell, 5-Nick Kennedy, 4-Steve Borthwick (captain), 3-Phil Vickery, 2-Lee Mears, 1-Tim Payne.

Replacements: 16-Dylan Hartley, 17-Matt Stevens, 18-Tom Croft, 19-Tom Rees, 20-Harry Ellis, 21-Danny Cipriani, 22-Dan Hipkiss.