Stevens, Lawes, Armitage back for England v Scots
Updated: September 28, 2011, 22:50
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Martin Johnson has stuck with tried and true Jonny Wilkinson to guide England from flyhalf and recalled Delon Armitage to start on the left wing for what is shaping as a monumental World Cup showdown with Scotland on Saturday.
It's a crucial match for both teams, although unbeaten England is in the box seat because it can still advance to the quarterfinals if loses but collects a bonus point. Scotland needs to win by eight points or more and deny England a bonus point, then hope the Argentina-Georgia result goes in its favor on Sunday as well.
Johnson shook his head slowly and deliberately side to side when asked Thursday if it would be less of a setback for England, considering the fallback of the bonus point situation, if it lost to Scotland.
"No. We have to win,'' he said. "It's knockout rugby, let's not worry about points differences and things like that. We've got to win, they've got to win. That's what World Cups are about.
"No one is under any illusion as to what it's about. It's a huge game. If we get it wrong there's a chance we could be sitting at home,'' next week.
Mark Cueto's hat trick of tries in the 67-3 win over Romania last weekend wasn't enough to keep him in the match 22.
The only other two changes were in the forwards, where Matt Stevens was back at loosehead prop after an ankle injury, and Courtney Lawes returned at lock after a two-match ban. Alex Corbisiero and Tom Palmer were dropped to the reserves.
Wilkinson, who kicked the winning dropped goal in extra time to win the 2003 World Cup final for England, held onto the flyhalf spot and will earn his 90th cap at the expense of Toby Flood. Lewis Moody will lead out England at Eden Park in his 70th test.
Scotland hasn't beaten England by eight points or more for 25 years - and its four wins in that period have all been at home on Murrayfield and all by six points.
England edged Argentina in its opening match, then had comfortable victories over Georgia and Romania leading into the last of its Pool B matches. Scotland opened with patchy wins over Romania and Georgia before conceding a late try to lose 13-12 to Argentina last weekend, making the last match a make-or-break situation.
Wilkinson said England's last two matches against Scotland - a 15-all draw in Edinburgh last year and a 22-16 win at Twickenham in March - reflect the intense nature of clashes between the old rivals.
"I've been involved with a good few losses against Scotland and I've seen the way they do it and how they can just smother you with their passion and their power and performance,'' Wilkinson said. But, "By this stage, no one needs any extra motivation.
"We know that World Cups are do or die things and as you progress a little bit more into the group stages that it only gets more and more intense. We've been building up. We know where we are, and what's happening. We're as ready to go as we can be.''
Johnson made only three changes to the starting lineup from the Romania match, deciding that Cueto was "one game short'' of his peak and that Armitage had earned his spot on the wing with his previous performances.
Stevens, a member of the 2007 squad which reached the final, was a natural to return if his ankle was OK and Johnson said Lawes had trained well during his two week-ban for kneeing Argentina's Mario Ledesma in the Argentina match.
Johnson also stuck with his 2003 World Cup-winning teammate Wilkinson to direct traffic in what will be a very physical game against Scotland, which has injected extra pace and size across the field as it chases victory.
"Everyone is propelled by that desire not to be going home, and the ultimate desire to be going right through to the end,'' said Wilkinson, who is playing in his fourth World Cup and has only recently unseated Flood from the starting role at No. 10. "You have to play every game like your last. And I've been doing that for about five years now.''
England: Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Mike Tindall, Delon Armitage, Jonny Wilkinson, Ben Youngs; James Haskell, Lewis Moody (captain), Tom Croft, Courtney Lawes, Louis Deacon, Dan Cole, Steve Thompson, Matt Stevens. Reserves: Dylan Hartley, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Palmer, Nick Easter, Richard Wigglesworth, Toby Flood, Matt Banahan.