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A year almost to the day since that unforgettable day of World Cup triumph in Sydney, and England’s selection to play South Africa at Twickenham offers the strongest evidence yet that they have moved on.
It was possible to wonder whether debutant head coach Andy Robinson would have picked the same team he fielded against Canada had he had to start against, say, the Tri-Nations champions. The answer though, loud and clear, is yes. There is only one change - original selection Joe Worsley returns for flanker Andy Hazell - from the 15 starters in last weekend’s 70-0 win.
That this is now Robinson’s team is signalled in the benching of Woodward-era regulars such as Ben Cohen, Will Greenwood and Ben Kay and the attacking intent in choosing Jason Robinson as captain and Henry Paul at inside centre.
South Africa will offer an infinitely tougher challenge, particularly at scrum, breakdown and line-out, and know that victory over the world champions is their shot at redemption from this tour after unwisely proclaiming grand-slam ambitions. They’re undoubtedly better than at the World Cup, but looked vulnerable to attacking enterprise against Wales, failed to cross Ireland’s line and have a miserable recent record against England.
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