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RUGBY: Bath's Wilson starts, Ford on bench for England
10:57am Thursday 20th February 2014 in Sport News
ENGLAND have selected Bath's David Wilson at tighthead prop and named uncapped fly-half George Ford on the bench for Saturday's RBS 6 Nations match against Ireland.
Wilson comes straight into the starting XV to fill the void left by Dan Cole's season-ending neck injury and Ford takes Brad Barritt's spot among the replacements, who also include Bath lock Dave Attwood.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster confirmed that Cole, who is suffering from a bulging disc that is trapping a nerve, will be rested for three months before being reassessed.
The outlook on the British and Irish Lions front row means he will miss the remainder of Leicester's season and is highly unlikely to feature on the summer tour to New Zealand.
"We have been forced into one change and we wish Dan Cole all the best for his recovery," Lancaster said.
"However, David Wilson is an experienced international with 31 caps and he showed in his three starts against Argentina last year what he can do.
"It's great to have George involved. He has settled in well and we are confident in his ability should he get his opportunity from the bench."
Wilson has played only 47 minutes of rugby in the last two months with that appearance coming in Bath's 27-23 Aviva Premiership victory over Exeter on Saturday.
The 28-year-old suffered a calf injury during a training game in December and his return was further delayed by a tight back.
With replacement tighthead Henry Thomas deemed unready to start a match of this magnitude, however, Wilson has been drafted straight into the front row where he will lock horns with feared Lions prop Cian Healy.
Lancaster admitted on Monday that England are "not in an ideal situation" and Wilson himself is unsure how long he will last at Twickenham.
But he said: "David has been fantastic in training this week and is ready to play, so there's no concern about him.
"I'm very sure he'll go all right. He's an excellent tighthead and is experienced too. He's fitted seemlessly back into camp."
Lancaster refused to offer any prediction over when Ford would be brought on at Twickenham.
Mindful of the lack of depth at tighthead, the selection of George Ford is borne out of the need to also increase the number of options at fly-half.
Should Owen Farrell, who is first choice in the position, suffer an injury, England are short of cover and need to give Ford his Test debut as soon as possible.
Whether that happens against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland depends on events at Twickenham. If the match is close, the 20-year-old rookie is likely to remain on the bench.
Freddie Burns had been the next in line to cover for Farrell once Toby Flood confirmed his end-of-season departure for France, but Ford's superb form for Bath this season has seen him edge ahead.
"You can never predict these things, although you go into games with a mindset about what to do," Lancaster said.
"We may have injuries in the centres that need to be covered, so we'll wait and see. If he does get his opportunity we know he's ready.
"George is composed and controlled and his confidence has grown throughout the season for Bath."
Former Wootton Bassett RFC youngster Jonny May, of Gloucester, will win his fourth cap on the wing.
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