England announce same side

Brian Ashton has retained the team that sent Australia crashing out of the World Cup for Saturday's semi-final against France. [more]

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Brian Ashton has retained the team that sent Australia crashing out of the World Cup for Saturday’s semi-final against France.

It is the first time during Ashton’s 15-Test reign as head coach that he has named the same side in successive games.

And it would hardly have been a long selection meeting, given the strength of England’s performance in defeating their quarter-final opponents last weekend.

Full-back Jason Robinson will become the latest England player to win 50 caps in what would be his farewell Test match before retirement should France win.

Robinson’s fellow 2003 World Cup-winner Mike Catt is retained in midfield alongside Mathew Tait after answering a late SOS to replace the injured Andy Farrell against the Wallabies.

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And the pack that destroyed Australia’s forwards in Marseille is also retained, with England hoping for another mighty scrummaging performance from their front row of Andrew Sheridan, Mark Regan and Phil Vickery.

Lawrence Dallaglio again has to be content with a place on the bench, missing out behind Harlequins number eight Nick Easter, who packs down in the back row alongside Leicester pair Martin Corry and Lewis Moody.

England are bidding to reach a second successive World Cup final and remain on course to make history, given that no country has successfully defended the Webb Ellis Trophy.

But France have recovered brilliantly from losing their opening game of the tournament against Argentina last month, reeling off four successive wins, including taking the scalp of World Cup favourites New Zealand.

Ashton said: "It certainly makes a difference (to be able to name an unchanged team). The 22 out there last week more than merit another shot at it this week.

"We need to improve in all areas, we know that. I can’t imagine we will catch France off-guard in the same way we caught Australia off-guard.

"France are the home country, at the home stadium, the crowd are behind them, we will have to go up a gear. We know that."

Catt was preferred to Farrell, who misses out on a place in the squad with Toby Flood retained on the bench.

"Mike took his chance last week, simple as that. It was a very, very difficult decision," said Ashton.

"Toby came on with 18 minutes to go in a hot pressure situation and I thought he handled himself exceptionally well in all areas of the game."

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