Wilkinson decision baffles Australia
Former Australia centre Tim Horan has warned England manager Martin Johnson he will live to regret not selecting Jonny Wilkinson for tomorrow's Test in Sydney.
Wilkinson will be on the bench as England return to the scene of their Rugby World Cup triumph, with Toby Flood to start at fly-half and Shontayne Hape retained at inside centre.
Horan described Johnson's selections as "confusing" and questioned why Wilkinson was even brought on the tour if England had not planned to start with him.
"I don't know what England coach Martin Johnson is trying to achieve in leaving Jonny Wilkinson on the bench again," Horan wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Johnson should have picked the man who broke Australian hearts in the 2003 World Cup final and it's a decision he's likely to regret.
"Wilkinson has the ability to ignite this England backline.
"He has a presence and a passing game that would lift them for sure, as well as the ability to provide field position via his boot and capitalise on those territory gains by accumulating points.
"Johnson's decision, and those he's made earlier on this tour, are confusing.
"Jonny hasn't played in either touring match against the Australian Barbarians and he got five minutes in the first Test last weekend.
"What was the point in even bringing him out?
"If they were going to put him in cotton wool, or simply overlook him, then England might as well have left him at home."
The Wallabies had expected Wilkinson to start in both Tests but Johnson has been keen to run the rule over Hape at inside centre and to increase Flood's experience.
Wilkinson lost his place after a disappointing Six Nations campaign and at one stage Johnson told the Australian media to "get over" their fixation with 2003.
But Horan, man of the tournament in the Wallabies' 1999 World Cup triumph, would have based his selection on Wilkinson's form for Toulon and started him alongside Flood.
"I don't base my opinion on what Jonny did seven years ago," said Horan.
"Shontayne Hape will wear the 12 jersey alongside Flood. This is the same player who I think made three tackles in the first Test, missed a crucial one when Luke Burgess put Quade Cooper across for a try and, from memory, ran the ball once. It's fair to say he didn't show a lot.
"So if you were the England coach, wouldn't you pick Wilkinson ahead of a rookie like Shontayne Hape?"
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