WORLD Cup hero Tim Horan has castigated England coach Martin Johnson for not selecting Jonny Wilkinson in the starting line-up for the Sydney Test tomorrow night, warning that leaving him on the bench is a decision he will regret.Horan, writing for the Herald’s rugbyheaven website as part of The Legends Call series, could not comprehend what Johnson ”is trying to achieve” by selecting former New Zealand league representative Shontayne Hape ahead of Wilkinson.England opted yesterday against the sentimental selection that would have enabled Wilkinson to start the Test on his first return to Homebush since he won the 2003 World Cup final over the Wallabies with a brilliant extra-time field goal.”Johnson should have picked the man who broke Australian hearts in the 2003 World Cup final and it’s a decision he’s likely to regret,” Horan wrote. ”Wilkinson would provide more stability to this English team, give them a fear factor, and have the Wallabies thinking about his presence in the back line during the 24-hour countdown to the game. And I don’t base my opinion on what Jonny did seven years ago at the same ground. His form simply warrants selection.”Horan, one of Australia’s greatest centres and an integral member of the Wallabies’ 1991 and 1999 World Cup triumphs, said he had been in contact with insiders at Wilkinson’s Toulon club, who have informed him that over the past year he has been in ”good shape, carrying no injuries and is close to his best form”.”Jonny should be starting for England, together with the man who will wear the No.10 jumper, Toby Flood. One of them could have played at inside centre and, in tandem, they would have given England two ball players as the Australians will have with Quade Cooper at No.10 and Matt Giteau at No.12,” Horan wrote.”Wilkinson has the ability to ignite this England back line. He has a presence and a passing game that would lift them for sure, as well as the ability to provide field position via his boot and capitalise on those territory gains by accumulating points.”Horan, the 1999 World Cup player of the tournament, said Wilkinson’s omission was just one of a number of confusing decisions Johnson had made on this tour.”Jonny hasn’t played in either touring match against the Australian Barbarians and he got five minutes in the first Test last weekend,” Horan said. ”What was the point in even bringing him out? If they were going to put him in cotton wool, or simply overlook him, then England might as well have left him at home. So who have they picked?”Shontayne Hape will wear the No.12 jersey alongside Flood. This is the same player who I think made three tackles in the first Test, missed a crucial one when Luke Burgess put Quade Cooper across for a try and, from memory, ran the ball once. It’s fair to say he didn’t show a lot. So if you were the England coach, wouldn’t you pick Wilkinson ahead of a rookie like Shontayne Hape?”If England lose on Saturday, the pressure will definitely be on Johnson, with the British media growing increasingly agitated by his unimpressive win-loss coaching record.Following the Perth defeat, comparisons were made with the previous England coach, Brian Ashton, who was ousted after taking the team to a World Cup final and was involved in 12 wins in 22 Tests. Johnson’s record stands at eight wins from 22 Tests.
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