Six Nations Championship
Goode gets nod at fly-half for England
February 6, 2009
Brive's Andy Goode offers some instruction to his side, Newcastle v Brive, European Challenge Cup, Kingston Park, Newcastle, England, January 17, 2009
Brive fly-half Andy Goode will return to international action this weekend © Getty Images

England manager Martin Johnson has settled on Andy Goode as fly-half for their opening Six Nations game against Italy, while London Irish openside Steffon Armitage will make his debut in the same side as brother Delon.

Goode has been preferred to Danny Cipriani for Saturday's game, who was yesterday dropped to the Saxons squad, while London Irish's Shane Geraghty takes the place of Leicester fly-half Toby Flood on the bench after he was forced to withdraw through injury. Goode has been away from the international stage for over two years, but has recently enjoyed a resurgence in form since his move from Leicester Tigers to French Top 14 side Brive.

Goode won the last of his nine caps against South Africa in November 2006 but had fallen behind Jonny Wilkinson, Flood and Cipriani until his improved form won him a call-up into the Elite Player Squad this week.

Flanker Armitage is the only uncapped player due to start following injuries to Tome Rees, Lewis Moody and Michael Lipman, with Northampton's Ben Foden on the bench. With the Armitage brothers starting at openside and fullback they will become the first brothers to represent England since the Underwoods in 1995.

Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care was originally selected to partner Goode at half-back but an ankle injury suffered in icy conditions at the hotel saw Harry Ellis drafted in from the Saxons. There was also supposed to be an international return for veteran centre Mike Tindall but he was ruled out on the eve of the clash with a back injury suffered in training. One familiar face that survived the week to make his return to the international stage was wing Mark Cueto.

Skipper Steve Borthwick is joined in the second-row by London Irish lineout supremo Nick Kennedy, while Armitage packs down in the back-row alongside James Haskell and Nick Easter.

Johnson has opted for experience and form in Goode following several naïve moments in Cipriani's play against Australia, South Africa and New Zealand during the autumn internationals.

"He is playing well. He trained very well with us last week and he is an experienced player, who has been around a long time," said Johnson. "Toby had a bit of an injury last week. It was an easy call in the end; he can train all week with the team and he is an experienced player. All the guys are looking forward to playing with him.

"We thought it was the right call for Danny to play in the Saxons. He has come back pretty well from a very serious injury. He is in our plans. He has a bright future ahead of him, but I thought it was the right call to play in the Saxons."

Armitage will make his international bow after an excellent season with London Irish, although he has benefited from several injuries at openside.

"We have a lot of guys contending for seven," said Johnson. "Tom Rees started three games in the autumn, but his injury will keep him out until late February. Lewis is injured again, and Michael has concussion. Steffon was on our radar anyway, and we are excited to have him. He is a different type of player to Moody and Lipman but one of the form players in the Premiership."

Italy coach Nick Mallett has handed Mauro Bergamasco the number nine role for Saturday´s opener.

With Pablo Canavosio having failed to recover from a problematic knee and Simone Piccone and Pietro Travagli out for the entire tournament through injury, Mallett revealed he had no option but to shift the Stade Francais flanker to the number nine role.

"I didn't have much choice," Mallett said. "I saw in training that he had the same passing ability and more experience than the others. Psychologically he has no fear of this challenge. It won't make the difference between victory and defeat against England."

On his new role, Bergamasco said, "There is a lot of responsibility. I'll need everyone's help because it's something unusual, something I accepted with pleasure but there's lots of work to do."

The Azzurri welcome back Leicester Tigers prop Martin Castrogiovanni, who returns to the squad after a one-year absence.

Mallett has included uncapped Venezia player Jean-Francois Montauriol in the squad.

England: Delon Armitage (London Irish), Paul Sackey (London Wasps), Jamie Noon (Newcastle Falcons), Riki Flutey (London Wasps), Mark Cueto (Sale Sharks), Andy Goode (Brive), Danny Care (Harlequins), Andrew Sheridan (Sale Sharks), Lee Mears (Bath Rugby), Phil Vickery (London Wasps), Steve Borthwick (Saracens, captain), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), James Haskell (London Wasps), Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Nick Easter (Harlequins),

Replacements: Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Julian White (Leicester Tigers), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers), Joe Worsley (London Wasps), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks)

Italy: A Masi (Biarritz), K Robertson (Viadana), G Canale (Clermont-Auvergne), G Garcia (Calvisano), Mirco Bergamasco (Stade Francais); A Marcato (Benetton Treviso), Mauro Bergamasco (Stade Francais); F Ongaro (Saracens), S Perugini (Stade Toulousain), M Castrogiovanni (Leicester), S Dellape (Toulon), M Bortolami (Gloucester), J Sole (Viadana), A Zanni (Calvisano), S Parisse (Stade Francais),

Replacements: C Festuccia (Racing Metro Paris), C Nieto (Gloucester), T Reato (Femi Rovigo), J-F Montauriol (Venezia), G Toniolatti (Capitolina), L McLean (Calvisano), M Pratichetti (Calvisano).

Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)

Touch judges: Joel Jutge (France), Peter Allan (Scotland)

TMO: Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

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