England dropped Jonny Wilkinson on Wednesday from their starting side to play France in the Six Nations international in Paris on Saturday, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced.
The flyhalf paid the price for failing to spark England’s backs in their lacklustre 15-15 draw away to Scotland last weekend, with the Toulon stand-off’s place taken by former Newcastle understudy Toby Flood.
It was only the third time in his 77-cap career for England that Wilkinson, rugby union’s record international points scorer, had been dropped when fit.
The 30-year-old stand-off was replaced by Paul Grayson in England’s team to play South Africa in the quarter-finals of the 1999 World Cup in Paris by then coach Clive Woodward.
Wilkinson’s place was also taken two years ago by the now out-of-favour Danny Cipriani against Ireland after another poor display against the Scots.
But now he has been left out by England manager Martin Johnson – his captain when Wilkinson struck the extra-time drop-goal that won the 2003 World Cup final against Australia in Sydney.
Wilkinson was replaced early in the second half at Murrayfield by Flood after suffering a head injury. But he was sufficiently fit to be named on the bench by Johnson on Wednesday.
And Wilkinson, who now plays his club rugby for French side Toulon, was not alone in being dropped by Johnson, who made six changes in all to his Murrayfield starting side.
Full-back Ben Foden was handed his first Test start after Delon Armitage, sent back to London Irish on Tuesday, was dropped.
Meanwhile Northampton’s former Wigan rugby league wing Chris Ashton was set for his England debut after he came in to replace Ugo Monye, who suffered a neck injury against Scotland.
The 22-year-old Ashton is the leading try-scorer in the English Premiership so far this season with 12 in 14 appearances.
And there was a return for World Cup-winning centre Mike Tindall, only recently back from a hamstring injury, in what appeared to be a bid to strengthen England’s midfield after Grand Slam chasing France recalled the powerful Mathieu Bastareaud in the only change to their side.
Mathew Tait dropped down to the bench to make way for Tindall.
Up front, Lewis Moody returned to England’s starting back-row after his replacement role against Scotland. Moody was down at openside with Joe Worsley moving across to blindside and Stade Francais’s James Haskell on the bench.
Veteran lock Simon Shaw, fit after a shoulder injury, replaced Louis Deacon in the second row where England captain Steve Borthwick was cleared to start despite a knee problem.
England have won just twice this Six Nations, against Wales and Italy, and lost to defending champions Ireland before their draw with Scotland.
15. Ben Foden, 14. Mark Cueto, 13. Mike Tindall, 12. Riki Flutey, 11. Chris Ashton, 10. Toby Flood, 9. Danny Care, 8. Nick Easter, 7. Lewis Moody, 6. Joe Worsley, 5. Steve Borthwick (captain), 4. Simon Shaw, 3. Dan Cole, 2. Dylan Hartley, 1. Tim Payne
Substitutes: 16. Steve Thompson, 17. David Wilson, 18. Louis Deacon, 19. James Haskell, 20. Ben Youngs, 21. Jonny Wilkinson, 22. Mathew Tait