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March 15, 2006 2:00 am
Less than 28 months on from England's Rugby Union World Cup victory, only one of the 15 men who started on that memorable night in Sydney will run out for the beginning of Saturday's concluding RBS Six Nations match against Ireland at Twickenham.
The survivor is Ben Cohen, who has spent much of the intervening time on the sidelines. The other four Sydney starters who figured in last Sunday's debacle in Paris have been dropped as coach Andy Robinson - given what looked disturbingly like a vote of confidence by Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas on Tuesday - marked this year's Ides of March with a slaughter of the MBEs, making seven changes in total.
Hooker Steve Thompson and full-back Josh Lewsey, England's two points of continuity since 2003, are both dropped, with Lewsey not even in the 22.
Thompson is joined on the bench by centre Mike Tindall and scrum-half Matt Dawson. Prop Julian White and lock Danny Grewcock are also benched, while outside-half Charlie Hodgson's absence injured may, in spite of his outstanding earlier form, have spared Robinson a further swing of the axe.
In come the Leicester half-back pairing of Harry Ellis and Andy Goode together with the Wasps duo of centre Stuart Abbott, whose absence from previous squads has been one of this season's puzzles, and full-back Tom Voyce.
Simon Shaw starts at lock while Andrew Sheridan returns at prop as Matt Stevens moves to the other side of both the scrum and of Bath clubmate Lee Mears, who replaces Thompson at hooker.
It is a measure of England's travails that a back row heavily criticised for its lack of balance is the only unit to remain intact, leaving Lawrence Dallaglio again on the bench. Ireland, pursuing an outside title chance as well as their second Triple Crown in three seasons, on Tuesday named an unchanged team.
*Wrexham football club owner Alex Hamilton has lost his appeal against a High Court judgment that leaves ownership of the Racecourse Stadium with the League Two club.
The Court of Appeal on Tuesday ruled ownership of the ground be restored to the club, and administrators will now proceed with their plans to sell it and the stadium as a going concern.
The Dragons have been in administration since December 2004 and must now find a buyer to safeguard the club's long-term future.
Football League rules state no club can remain in administration longer than 18 months, and Wrexham may be thrown out of the league if a buyer is not found so the club can come out of administration by the June 3 deadline.
* Brave Inca, the 7/4 favourite, held off a strong challenge from Macs Joy to claim victory in the Champion Hurdle on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Tony McCoy, who went into the race with just one Festival win in the past two years, rode the eight-year- old strongly up the hill at the end to earn victory. Hardy Eustace, bidding for a hat-trick of Champion wins, finished third. Al Eile took fourth to complete an Irish clean sweep. Colm Murphy, the winning trainer, said: "Tony is as tough as old nails and he'd probably ride if he had no legs and no arms . . . I think they're a match made in heaven. One is tough, the other is tougher but I don't know which is which."
Although the champion jockey took the feature race, Ruby Walsh claimed a 55-1 double with victories on Noland (6/1) in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and Dun Doire (7/1) in the William Hill Trophy.
The Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase went to Voy Por Ustedes, a 15/2 chance. Native Jack (7/2 favourite) gave the Irish their third winner of the day in the Sporting Index Handicap Chase over the cross- country course, while Shamayoun (40/1) enabled jockey Paddy Brennan to chalk up his first Festival win in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle.
* Manchester City striker Georgios Samaras scored his fourth goal in eight games for his new club to pave the way for a 2-1 home victory over Aston Villa in their FA Cup fifth-round replay on on Tuesday night. City next meet the winners of Wednesday’s replay between West Ham United and Bolton Wanderers.
Samaras opened the scoring after 17 minutes. Former Villa striker Darius Vassell added a second shortly after the break, and Villa midfielder Steven Davis grabbed a consolation with five minutes to spare.
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