Goode starts for England as team announced

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The Independent Online

Andy Goode will make his first England appearance in over two years in Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy after being handed a surprise recall.

Goode, 28, starts at fly-half after England boss Martin Johnson demoted Danny Cipriani to the Saxons while Toby Flood has been struggling with a calf injury.

England's starting XV features five changes from the November defeat to New Zealand and includes a debut for London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage, who has been promoted straight into the team following injuries to Tom Rees, Lewis Moody and Michael Lipman.

Steffon Armitage and full-back Delon Armitage will become the first brothers to play in the same England team since the Underwoods, Rory and Tony, in 1995.

Mike Tindall returns at outside centre with Mark Cueto back on the wing for the first time since the 2007 World Cup final to replace the injured Ugo Monye, while Andrew Sheridan returns at loose-head.

Northampton's versatile back Ben Foden is poised to make his debut off the bench, where he features alongside veteran Leicester prop Julian White who replaced Matt Stevens in the elite squad.

Goode last appeared for England in the 2006 November defeat to South Africa - Andy Robinson's last game in charge - but returns to the international stage in prime form.

Having swapped Leicester for Brive during the summer, Goode is the leading points scorer in the French Top 14.

Goode joined the England squad for last week's training camp in Portugal and his inclusion will see the fly-half jersey change hands for the sixth time in eight Tests.

Cipriani was yesterday dropped to the Saxons squad for Friday night's game against Ireland A in Dublin.

Johnson admits England lacked experience through the autumn - but that issue has been addressed with the inclusion of players like Goode, Tindall and Cueto.

Goode has scored 160 points in 16 games this season, helping Brive into the top six of the French championship and quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup.

"He is playing well. He trained very well with us last week and he is an experienced player, who has been around a long time," said Johnson, Goode's former Leicester team-mate.

"Toby had a bit of an injury last week. It was an easy call in the end; he can train all week with the team and he is an experienced player. All the guys are looking forward to playing with him."

Cipriani has struggled to rekindle his best form since returning from a dislocated fracture of his right ankle in May.

After struggling against Australia and South Africa, Cipriani was dropped to the bench for England's defeat to the All Blacks.

Despite the injury to Flood, Johnson decided Cipriani would be better served in the Saxons than remaining a part of the senior squad.

"We thought it was the right call for Danny to play in the Saxons. He has come back pretty well from a very serious injury," added Johnson.

"He is in our plans. He has a bright future ahead of him, but I thought it was the right call to play in the Saxons."

Armitage may be getting his chance with Rees, Moody and Lipman out injured. But it is just reward for an outstanding season with London Irish.

"We have a lot of guys contending for seven," said Johnson.

"Tom Rees started three games in the autumn, but his injury will keep him out until late February. Lewis is injured again, and Michael has concussion.

"Steffon was on our radar anyway, and we are excited to have him. He is a different type of player to Moody and Lipman but one of the form players in the Premiership."

England team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations at Twickenham on Saturday, February 7, kick-off 3pm:

D Armitage (London Irish); P Sackey (Wasps), M Tindall (Gloucester), R Flutey (Wasps), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); A Goode (Brive), D Care (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), P Vickery (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), N Kennedy (London Irish), J Haskell (Wasps), S Armitage (London Irish), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), J White (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), J Worsley (Wasps), B Foden (Northampton), S Geraghty (London Irish), M Tait (Sale Sharks).

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