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RUGBY: Vicks gets the rub of the green for Australia test.

Byline: BY ALEX LOWE Daily Post Correspondent

PHIL VICKERY has reclaimed his place at tight-head prop as England prepare to renew hostilities with old enemy Australia at Twickenham.

The former England captain returns to a beefed-up pack in place of Matt Stevens, who drops to the bench, with Tom Palmer replacing Nick Kennedy in the second row.

Vickery missed the summer tour to New Zealand with a knee injury and then lost the captaincy to Steve Borthwick at the start of the autumn Investec Challenge series.

England manager Martin Johnson was impressed, but not surprised, by the positive manner in which his old team-mate reacted to the news.

Vickery came off the bench against the Pacific Islanders last weekend and his return to action ensures England have their best scrummaging front-row unit available.

"When he is fit and in form Phil is a world-class tighthead prop," said Johnson.

"He has been around the team for 10 years. He is still enthusiastic to play the game. He is in very good shape, as good as I have seen him in some time.

"He is very good in the scrum and lineout, he is also a very smart rugby player around the field. His leadership and who he is as a bloke is very important to this squad.

"It is not an ego trip for Vicks to be captain. He still has a big role to play in leadership and bringing younger players through.

"We have two top tight-head props. Phil is deserving of a start.

Matt can come on and make an impact and if there is an injury he is there for both sides of the scrum."

Vickery and Andrew Sheridan were the England props responsible for the destruction of the Australian scrum in the World Cup quarter-final last year.

The only other players in England's starting XV who began that 12-10 victory in Marseille are number eight Nick Easter and winger Paul Sackey.

Palmer comes into the side in place of Kennedy, who drops out of the match 22 with Simon Shaw preferred as the replacement lock.

Johnson has kept his back division unchanged. Full-back Delon Armitage, who was man of the match at Twickenham, winger Ugo Monye and inside centre Riki Flutey will all win their second caps.

Much of the pre-match focus will be on the scrum, set-piece and breakdown but Johnson knows England face a major challenge to keep the Wallabies' backs in check.

"They are always very smart," he said. "They have Matt Giteau and scrum-half Luke Burgess is a dangerous runner as well. You have to be on your toes against them all.

"They are smart but also skilful, quick and powerful."

England team to play Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, November 15, 2.30pm: D Armitage (London Irish); P Sackey (Wasps), J Noon (Newcastle), R Flutey (Wasps), U Monye (Harlequins); D Cipriani (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), L Mears (Bath), P Vickery (Wasps), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), T Palmer (Wasps), T Croft (Leicester), T Rees (Wasps), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), M Stevens (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), J Haskell (Wasps), M Lipman (Bath), H Ellis (Leicester), T Flood (Leicester).

It is not an ego trip for Vicks to be captain MARTIN JOHNSON

CAPTION(S):

England manager Martin Johnson at a press conference at Penny Hill Park Hotel yesterday Picture: REBECCA NADEN/PA
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2008
Words:564
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