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Premiership Rugby

Catt handed England starting berth

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

Catt made a huge impact as a replacement in the second-half of the quarter-final against Wales in Brisbane last weekend and has been promoted ahead of Bath team-mate Tindall, who moves down to the bench.

The inclusion of the Bath man is an admission on the part of the management that the creative spark has been missing from England's backline play during much of this tournament, Woodward clearly pinning his hopes on the 32-year-old's ability to create space.

Catt's selection also takes some of the pressure off the shoulders of fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, who has been in great form in the goal-kicking stakes, but whose game in general play has come under increased scrutiny.

"Clearly he's [Catt] been playing very well and it's no slight on Mike Tindall," said Woodward.

"He has the ability to play at first receiver or second receiver and he has the ability to pass well off both hands so if you want to play with a genuine strike fullback he gives you the ability to go wide.

"When he was injured he was told the only chance was to have a complete summer off. He did all that and he's now in the Test team.

"We're going in with our strongest team and it's good to see Iain Balshaw, Mike Tindall and Kyran Bracken on a very strong bench. This is our strongest team and it's the first time we've been able to pick from all 30 since the first game."

The man himself is delighted to be back in the midfield for one of the biggest games in England's history after a miserable run of injuries put his international career on hold for two years.

"It means a lot to me as it's been a pretty lonely road these last couple of years," said Catt. "Hopefully I can take a bit of heat off Jonny and bring a bit of freshness to the team."

In all, the side shows four changes from the Wales game, Trevor Woodman edging out Jason Leonard at loosehead prop and Josh Lewsey returning after recovering from the injury which saw him withdraw from the quarter-final just 24 hours before kick-off.

There is also the long-awaited return of Richard Hill at No.6, the first appearance of the Saracens back rower since he limped off against Georgia in England's RWC opener with a hamstring injury.

"It's not a case of being relieved that he's fit, it's just that we've been able to pick from our full-strength squad," said Woodward.

"Richard's a little bit short of match practice but after seeing him running around I think he'll get through it on passion and adrenaline."

England: 15 Josh Lewsey, 14 Jason Robinson, 13 Will Greenwood, 12 Mike Catt, 11 Ben Cohen, 10 Jonny Wilkinson (vice-captain), 9 Matt Dawson, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio, 7 Neil Back, 6 Richard Hill, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Martin Johnson (captain), 3 Phil Vickery, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Trevor Woodman.Replacements: 16 Dorian West, 17 Jason Leonard, 18 Martin Corry, 19 Lewis Moody, 20 Kyran Bracken, 21 Mike Tindall, 22 Iain Balshaw.

Kick-off: 20.00 local, (09.00 GMT), Live in the UK on ITV1

By Justin O'Regan in Sydney


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