Rugby World Cup 2011: England's Toby Flood set to oust Jonny Wilkinson
England are set to offer Toby Flood and Lewis Moody the chance to make a World Cup impact against Georgia on Sunday. Flood is poised to replace at No10 while Moody, out of action since the first week in August, will be invited to show he has completely recovered from knee ligament damage.
Alex Corbisiero is also expected to fill the large hole left by Andrew Sheridan's abrupt exit as the England management attempt to give as many of their squad as possible a slice of live action. Martin Johnson could have stuck with Wilkinson, who missed five kicks in the 13-9 defeat of Argentina, but has instead decided to see what Flood can offer.
Johnson is also aware that the tricky issue of Moody's fitness cannot be fudged much longer. England will want their captain to be available for their final Pool B game against Scotland on 1 October and need to find out sooner rather than later whether that is a realistic prospect. It is among the reasons England are taking their time before deciding whom to summon as a replacement for Sheridan.
Sources close to the squad suggest a final call is likely to be delayed until after Sunday's game in case England suffer further injuries against the muscular Georgians. It is not quite as simple as whistling up another prop. England already have four – Dan Cole, Matt Stevens, Corbisiero and David Wilson – in New Zealand and it could make more sense for Johnson to consider plugging other areas of his squad, particularly if Moody and Mark Cueto suffer fresh setbacks.
Should either of these two break down, Johnson will have to consider summoning another back-row forward and/or a winger. With Hendre Fourie still nursing a strained hamstring, Harlequins' Chris Robshaw would be the most likely back-row call-up, although Exeter's Tom Johnson, Leicester's Thomas Waldrom, Gloucester's Luke Narraway, Wasps' Joe Worsley and Northampton's Phil Dowson would also merit consideration. Gloucester's Charlie Sharples, who narrowly missed out on the original party, tops the list of stand-by wingers.
Amid all the possible permutations, though, it is impossible not to feel for the luckless Sheridan, ruled out by yet another bout of shoulder trouble. The Sale prop has had three shoulder operations in two years, two of them after dislocating his left shoulder playing for Sale in October 2009.
He does not yet know if he will require further surgery but his sense of disappointment was obvious enough. "It's a big blow to leave the World Cup through injury but it's a significant injury to the shoulder, so I have to deal with that and get on with it now," he said.
"I didn't know the exact incident that had caused it during the game; initially it just felt a bit sore but a couple of days post-match it was still pretty painful and that's when I had the scan on it. I think everyone knows shoulders are quite complicated structures. I just have to get on with it and see what the results are after I have seen the specialist. I am quite well acquainted with the surgeon now. He will give me some good advice and see if I need an operation."
Corbisiero, the likeliest beneficiary, was as sympathetic as anyone. "Sheri worked really hard over the summer to come back from injury and has put in two very good performances," he said. "I was aware he had a niggle from the weekend but I didn't realise the severity of it until I heard a couple of the boys talking about it. I just wish him all the best. He's a world-class player and a big hero of mine. I think the squad will miss him but we've just got to get on with it There's four of us [props] left here and it's going to be a big job for all of us. Losing someone with the experience of Sheridan is tough but it will make us stronger and pull together."