Rugby World Cup 2011: Johnson omits Flutey from England squad

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport

England have left out centre Riki Flutey and included his uncapped Wasps team-mate, scrum-half Joe Simpson, in their 30-man World Cup squad.

Flutey's omission was the biggest surprise in a party that includes only two specialist fly-halves in Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson.

The loss of Danny Care last week persuaded manager Martin Johnson to take three scrum-halves, with Simpson joining Ben Youngs and Richard Wigglesworth.

Flutey lost out to Shontayne Hape, Mike Tindall, Manu Tuilagi and Matt Banahan among the centre options.

Lewis Moody, who is targeting the opening World Cup match against Argentina on 10 September for his return to action, will captain the squad.

Moody travels as one of only five back-row specialists, with Sale open-side Hendre Fourie also missing out.

With lingering concerns over Andrew Sheridan's fitness and the "attritional" nature of the role, Johnson has opted for five props with David Wilson adding extra cover, and four specialist locks.

The latter means Simon Shaw, 38 on 1 September, will become one of the oldest players to feature in a World Cup [former Uruguay captain Diego Ormaechea was 40 in 1999]. Shaw was called out as a replacement in 2003 but did not play, before starring in England's run to the final four years ago.

New Zealand-born Flutey, who will remain on stand-by along with all the others to miss out, returned to the side for the first time in 17 months against Wales recently.

Despite a solid outing, his struggle to regain the form he showed in earning a Lions Test start two years ago has ultimately cost him a spot.

Johnson said 31-year-old Flutey "took it very well".

The England boss added: "We just felt we can cover 12 in a number of different ways. We have some good options there."

Later on Twitter Flutey saidexternal-link: "Really appreciate all the support. Obviously gutted to not be named in the squad. Be at the ready if anyone goes down."

While Johnson cited Banahan, Flood, Wilkinson and Tindall as alternatives, Hape is set to start against Argentina as the only specialist inside centre.

Initially pondering the option of only taking two scrum-halves, Johnson ultimately decided that an injury to one of them even three days before a game was "too big a risk" given the time needed for a replacement to fly to New Zealand and recover from the journey, raising the prospect of starting without a specialist on the bench.

"It is such a key position," he explained. "It wouldn't be fair on that player [the replacement] or the team to be in that position."

If a similar scenario befalls either Flood or Wilkinson, as it did the latter before the opening game of the 2007 tournament, then Saracens' Wigglesworth - who played a handful of games for Sale at 10 - would be the back-up option.

Simpson, born in Australia to an English father and a mother from New Zealand before the family relocated to London, was in the middle of a fitness session at Wasps last Wednesday when Johnson called.

"There was a whole raft of emotions," said the 23-year-old. "I was over the moon, so excited, but there were no nerves. It was just ecstasy really. It just blew me away."

Aside from Simpson's late elevation to the squad, the youngest member is 20-year-old Manu Tuilagi, who scored a try on his debut against Wales at Twickenham a fortnight ago.

Wilkinson meanwhile will take part in his fourth World Cup, equalling the English record of Jason Leonard and Mike Catt.

He is one of eight players - including Mark Cueto, Sheridan, Lee Mears, Matt Stevens, Shaw, Nick Easter and Moody - who played in the 2007 final, while Tindall and Steve Thompson survive from the squad that lifted the trophy in 2003.

Moody will miss England's final warm-up game against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, while there is no guarantee Sheridan or Youngs will feature either. Johnson said he would "make a call" on them later in the week, ahead of announcing his team on Thursday.

Forwards: (17)

Props: Dan Cole (Leicester, Age 24, 17 caps), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish, 22, 6), Andrew Sheridan (Sale, 31, 38), Matt Stevens (Saracens, 28, 34), David Wilson (Bath, 26, 18).

Hookers: Dylan Hartley (Northampton, 25, 29), Lee Mears (Bath, 32, 37), Steve Thompson (Wasps, 33, 67).

Locks: Louis Deacon (Leicester, 30, 24), Courtney Lawes (Northampton, 22, 9), Tom Palmer (Stade Francais, 32, 27), Simon Shaw (unattached, 37, 67).

Back row: Tom Croft (Leicester, 25, 25), Nick Easter (Harlequins, 33, 44), James Haskell (Ricoh Black Rams, 26, 36), Lewis Moody (Bath, 33, 67), Tom Wood (Northampton, 24, 7).

Backs: (13)

Full-backs/wings: Delon Armitage (London Irish, 27, 20), Ben Foden (Northampton, 26, 16), Chris Ashton (Northampton, 24, 12), Mark Cueto (Sale, 31, 52).

Centres: Matt Banahan (Bath, 24, 13), Shontayne Hape (London Irish, 30, 12), Mike Tindall (Gloucester, 32, 71), Manu Tuilagi (Leicester, 20, 1).

Fly-halves: Toby Flood (Leicester, 26, 41), Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon, 32, 86).

Scrum-halves: Joe Simpson (Wasps, 23, 0), Richard Wigglesworth (Saracens, 28, 7), Ben Youngs (Leicester, 21, 12).

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