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Premiership Rugby

England name unchanged side for Grand Slam decider

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Both players were key figures in the England 'A' side's 78-6 hammering of their Scottish counterparts at Franklin's Gardens last weekend – Bracken featuring amongst the try-scorers – and come into the senior matchday squad at the expense of Andy Gomarsall and Mark Regan.

Meanwhile, the injury worries over lock Ben Kay (shoulder), scrum-half Matt Dawson (nose) and centre Mike Tindall (leg) appear to have dissipated with all three players ready for action on Sunday.

England's starting XV includes seven survivors from the team that crashed to an unexpected 20-14 defeat against Ireland in Dublin in the final match of the 2001 Six Nations championship and there is vast experience in key areas throughout the team, not least from starting No.9 Matt Dawson who will become the 15th English player to notch up a half-century of Test caps when he takes the field on Sunday.

Woodward admitted selecting the squad was "straightforward" after he had reviewed the video evidence of their Calcutta Cup victory and, significantly, this is the first unchanged team England have named in 2003.  

"I looked closely but after watching the replays I thought we'd played particularly well," said Woodward. "We seem to have stepped up a gear from the first few games.

"There wasn't any lengthy debate, it was very straightforward. There is pressure coming through. The A game on Friday night was excellent and there are people pushing for places. But with big back-to-back games this is my strongest team.

"It's not the time to experiment in a one-off game we want to win – one we must win. It's time to have some continuity after the last game. We'll talk to individual players about the things we can improve.

"It's a huge one-off game – there's no hiding from that – it's an ideal situation and we've got to front-up on Sunday.

"The important thing is not to overtrain or to do too much. That's the temptation. We did very little going into the Scotland game. Freshness is the key to Sunday, especially on the back of a big game.

"There's nothing much we'll change. We'll tinker with the game plan based on the Irish team and the weather. Preparation will be very similar to any other international."

England will have completed all of their preparations by the time they arrive in Ireland on Thursday afternoon and will visit Lansdowne Road on Saturday morning to familiarise themselves with the ground and take part in a light run-out.

"It's a very different ground to Twickenham but that's the beauty of playing international rugby and adapting to the conditions," said Woodward. "This is an extremely tough bunch of players mentally and the bottom line is that it's the same pitch wherever you are."

We've just got to hope that all the preparation over the years hits 10 out of 10 on Sunday. If we do that, we can win the game."

England: 15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Jason Robinson, 13 Will Greenwood, 12 Mike Tindall, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Matt Dawson, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio, 7 Neil Back, 6 Richard Hll, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Martin Johnson (captain), 3 Jason Leonard, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Graham Rowntree.Replacements: 16 Dorian West, 17 Trevor Woodman, 18 Danny Grewcock, 19 Joe Worsley, 20 Kyran Bracken, 21 Paul Grayson, 22 Dan Luger.

Kick-off: Sunday, March 30 @ 1500 GMTReferee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)Touch judges: Nigel Williams (Wales), Joël Jutge (France)Assessor: Patrick Robin (France)Television match official: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)


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