England coach Martin Johnson has handed the captaincy reins of a strong team to veteran centre Mike Tindall for their World Cup warm up clash with Ireland at Lansdowne Road this weekend.
Tindall will win his 72nd cap and draw level with Will Carling as England's most-capped centre when he leads out a team that shows six changes from the team that lost to Wales in their last match at the Millenium Stadium.
Key players Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Jonny Wilkinson, Andrew Sheridan, Tom Croft and James Haskell will all start in Dublin against an Irish team that will be desperate for a morale boosting victory after losing all of their warm-up fixtures thus far.
In contrast to his experienced skipper, Joe Simpson, the London Wasps scrumhalf will win his first cap if he appears as a replacement.
The selection of young Leicester Tigers outside centre Tuilagi alongside Tindall will surely fuel speculation that the powerful runner will start in the midfield during England's World Cup campaign.
Johnson commented: "We expect a hugely competitive game in Dublin and it gives us the ideal run out before we depart for the World Cup. These warm up fixtures have been valuable in terms of our preparation for the World Cup, giving players game time together.
Johnson was particularly happy to be able to hand some valuable match-time to star prop Andrew Sheridan and wing Chris Ashton who have both only recently recovered from injury.
"We are pleased to see Andrew Sheridan back in the mix after working hard to get back to full fitness and he, along with Chris Ashton, will get his first start since meeting up in camp," he added.
"Mike Tindall captains the side and, as he reaches another milestone in the game, he further demonstrates the level of quality and experience he brings to the side as a player and leader," explained the England boss.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Mike Tindall (captain), 11 Mark Cueto, 10 Jonny Wilkinson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Nick Easter, 7 James Haskell, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Steve Thompson, 1 Andrew Sheridan.
Replacements: 16 Dylan Hartley, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Joe Simpson, 21 Toby Flood, 22 Delon Armitage.
Date: Saturday, August 28
Venue: Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Kick-off: 14.30 (13.30 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Tim Hayes (Wales)
TMO: Giulio De Santis (Italy)
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