England coach Stuart Lancaster yesterday recalled winger Chris Ashton to an otherwise unchanged team to face Australia at Twickenham tomorrow in a match that could have major ramifications for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Ashton, who missed last week’s 54-12 victory over Fiji through suspension, returns at right wing with Charlie Sharples, who scored two excellent tries in the match, switching to the left.
Ashton has scored 15 tries in his 26 Tests, but has gone nine internationals without scoring.
“To select 23 from a squad of 30-plus who have trained so well, with such intensity and focus, was difficult, but it’s a good position to be in. The ‘team first’ mentality of all our squad has impressed us greatly,” Lancaster said in a statement.
“We were pleased with lots of aspects of our performance last week, but we know we need to improve this week and, by having some consistency in selection, we allow those players to demonstrate we can step up to the next level against what will be a very tough Australian side,” he said.
Tomorrow’s game has been given extra spice by the rankings situation, where an England victory would lift them above their rivals, who would then be likely to drop out of the top four.
Much could still change before the Dec. 3 draw for the World Cup, but Australia will not want to go into it outside the top four seeds.
Australia coach Robbie Deans reacted to his side’s 33-6 thrashing by France by making four changes.
Fullback Berrick Barnes and winger Digby Ioane return in place of Mike Harris and Pat McCabe, while lock Sitaleki Timani and tighthead prop Ben Alexander come in for Kane Douglas and Sekope Kepu up front.