Johnson shuffles his pack for Australia Test

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson has reinforced the England pack by making two changes for the Cook Cup international against Australia.

Phil Vickery comes into the side at tight-head prop in place of Matt Stevens, who drops to the bench, while Tom Palmer replaces Nick Kennedy in the second row.

Johnson has brought added bulk on to the bench for Saturday, with Simon Shaw preferred to Kennedy among the replacements.

Shaw's inclusion is the only change to the 22-man squad that opened Johnson's coaching reign with a 39-13 victory over the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham last weekend.

Although Mathew Tait has returned to training, Johnson has kept his electric back division intact after their impressive performance against the Islanders.

Full-back Delon Armitage, who was man of the match at Twickenham, winger Ugo Monye and inside centre Riki Flutey will all win their second Test caps.

England's starting XV features only four of the team that began the World Cup quarter-final victory over Australia last autumn - Vickery, Andrew Sheridan and Nick Easter with Paul Sackey the only surviving back.

Australia hold the Cook Cup following their back-to-back victories over England in June 2006. England last won the trophy in November 2005.

Sheridan and Vickery were the starting props when England demolished the Australian scrum in Marseille last October.

Johnson insisted he was not trying to send out a message and explained the changes were made with one aim in mind - to beat Australia on Saturday.

"We have two quality tighthead props. Phil is fresh and in form and we are picking a team to beat Australia on Saturday," said Johnson.

"Matt is a huge impact player. Phil is our most experienced forward. He brings a lot of leadership, which will be important. He is a world-class player.

"Tom had a good tour of New Zealand. It was good to get Nick in last week. He played pretty well. It is not a selection on how he played last week, we were thinking of doing it anyway.

"It was a tough call on him not being on the bench but we wanted what Shaw offers."

Johnson was pleased with the way England performed against the Islanders - but he outlined how big a challenge he expects from the Wallabies.

"It was good to get that game played. We had been together for a couple of weeks but until you play and get exposed in a couple of areas, you don't know where you are," said Johnson.

"This is the first experience for a number of our players. They played well last week and we now need to back it up. Consistency is a big thing for us.

"Every part of our game needs to improve. Australia have just come out of the Tri-Nations, they have played South Africa three times, New Zealand four times, so they have been rubbing shoulders with the best teams in the world.

"They will be battle-hardened and they will want to come to Twickenham to win. They have some strong runners and are direct. They get the best out of what they have got.

"Their scrum was a weakness but they have worked hard on that. Scrummaging has become the thing to talk about in England-Australia games but we need to be on top of our game.

"We haven't scrummaged that well recently and it is not about reputations, it is about 2.30pm on Saturday."

England team to play Australia at Twickenham on Saturday (1430):

Team: 15-Delon Armitage, 14-Paul Sackey, 13-Jamie Noon, 12-Riki Flutey, 11-Ugo Monye, 10-Danny Cipriani, 9-Danny Care; 8-Nick Easter, 7-Tom Rees, 6-Tom Croft, 5-Tom Palmer, 4-Steve Borthwick (captain), 3-Phil Vickery, 2-Lee Mears, 1-Andrew Sheridan.

Replacements: 16-Dylan Hartley, 17-Matt Stevens, 18-Simon Shaw, 19-James Haskell, 20-Michael Lipman, 21-Harry Ellis, 22-Toby Flood.

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