England captain Lewis Moody was given the all-clear on Friday to lead the side against Georgia here on Sunday after missing their World Cup opener against Argentina with a knee injury.
The openside flanker was one of nine changes announced by England manager Martin Johnson on Friday to the team that beat the Pumas 13-9 in their Pool B clash at Dunedin’s Otago Stadium last Saturday.
Moody missed the Argentina match with knee ligament damage suffered in England’s opening warm-up win over Wales at Twickenham last month, having also missed this season’s victorious Six Nations campaign with a knee problem.
He took the place of James Haskell, now on the bench, in the back-row.
“It’s good to have Lewis back,” Johnson told reporters here on Friday. “It’s a chance for a lot of guys to come and play.
“It was always the plan that people would have to play and give them a chance in the second half of the pool and hopefully beyond.”
Other changes up front saw Tom Wood set for a World Cup debut at blindside flanker instead of Tom Croft.
Johnson, himself a former lock, selected a new second row combination of Simon Shaw and Tom Palmer, the pair replacing Courtney Lawes, suspended for two matches for kneeing Argentina’s Mario Ledesma, and Louis Deacon.
“Courtney is out for a couple of weeks, but we’d have played the other two locks anyway,” explained Johnson, who confirmed England would not be appealing Lawes’s ban.
Meanwhile in the front row, Matt Stevens, a replacement against Argentina for Andrew Sheridan, whose World Cup has since been ended by a shoulder injury, started at loosehead prop with Dylan Hartley replacing 2003 World Cup-winner Steve Thompson at hooker.
In the backs, former New Zealand rugby league international Shontayne Hape came in for Mike Tindall, England’s captain against Argentina.
Johnson stressed Tindall’s absence had nothing to do with the lurid tabloid headlines back in Britain concerning the 2003 World Cup winner after a team night out in Queenstown.
Toby Flood replaced Jonny Wilkinson, who missed five of his eight goalkicks against Argentina, at fly-half while Flood’s Leicester team-mate Ben Youngs, who came off the bench to score the only try of the Pumas match, was alongside him at scrum-half.
“We are excited about getting back to Dunedin,” said Johnson, England’s 2003 World Cup-winning captain.
“It was a great game last week, great atmosphere, an intense World Cup match, a real tough battle.
“It was almost like you were in sudden-death already. That’s great, that’s what you want, to be battle-hardened as you go through.”
This line-up meant there was still no place in the side for wing Mark Cueto, a member of the England side that lost the 2007 World Cup against South Africa, after he was left out of the team to play Argentina after struggling with a back injury.
“It gives us a chance for our back three (Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Delon Armitage) to get a bit more game time together,” Johnson explained.
“I’m sure Mark is pretty frustrated he’s not had a shot yet but every day he can train and get more training time under his belt, the better it is.”
Johnson added a decision on a replacement player for Sheridan would be taken after Sunday’s match.
Georgia began their World Cup with a 15-6 loss to Scotland on Wednesday, and coach Richie Dixon makes two changes.
Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Manu Tuilagi, Shontayne Hape, Delon Armitage; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Nick Easter, Lewis Moody (capt), Tom Wood; Tom Palmer, Simon Shaw; Dan Cole, Dylan Hartley, Matt Stevens
Replacements: Steve Thompson, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Croft, James Haskell, Joe Simpson, Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Banahan
Revaz Gigauri; Irakli Machkhaneli, David Kacharava, Tedo Zibzibadze, Alexander Todua; Merab Kvirikashvili, Irakli Abuseridze (capt); Dimitri Basilaia, Mamuka Gorgodze, Shalva Sutiashvili; Vakhtang Maisuradze, Ilia Zedginidze; David Kubriashvili, Jaba Bregvadze, David Khinchagishvili
Replacements: Akvsenti Giorgadze, David Zirakashvili, Levan Datunashvili, Giorgi Chkhaidze, Bidzina Samkharadze, Givi Berishvili, Lasha Khmaladze