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Wilkinson returns to England side

Jonny Wilkinson will make his first international appearance for 18 months.
Jonny Wilkinson will make his first international appearance for 18 months.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jonny Wilkinson will feature for England for the first time in 18 months after being named in the side to face Australia
  • England team manager Martin Johnson admitted the side's younger players will benefit from his leadership
  • Wilkinson is joined by fellow World Cup winners Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody in the team
RELATED TOPICS
  • Rugby
  • Jonny Wilkinson
  • Australia

(CNN) -- Jonny Wilkinson will make his first international appearance for 18 months after he was named in England's rugby union side to face Australia on Saturday.

The 30-year-old has been handed a starting place against the Wallabies alongside fellow World Cup winners Steve Thompson and Lewis Moody by team manager Martin Johnson whose plans have been decimated by injury.

Johnson lost 11 of his original 32-man squad to injury in the lead-up to the match, including seven probable starters.

Wilkinson, who is now back to full fitness after struggling with injuries, has good memories of facing Australia having kicked the drop-goal to secure the victory for England at the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney.

When asked of the impact of the Toulon fly-half's return to the side Johnson said: "He has just been Jonny Wilkinson. He gets on with what he does and does it very well. His leadership in the group has been fantastic, his communication with the players, and particularly the younger guys, and what he brings.

"These guys have seen what he has done over the last 10 years playing for England and it's a tremendous amount, so you can't really say too much more than that."

The return of Thompson, 31, is even more pertinent after he was initially forced to retire from the sport in April 2007 with a serious neck injury.

Thompson got a second opinion on the injury and paid back a $826,000 insurance check before returning to action with Brive later that year.

He has just been Jonny Wilkinson. He gets on with what he does and does it very well.
--Martin Johnson

"Steve probably realised what he was missing and had the desire to come back," Johnson told reporters at the pre-match press conference.

"He got himself into shape, worked really hard and he has been fantastic for us these last 10 days, as he was in the summer. It is good to have that experience among the younger players."

Elsewhere, Johnson has given a debut to number eight Jordan Crane and inside centre Shane Geraghty while prop David Wilson starts only his second match. Uncapped pair of Courtney Lawes and Ayoola Erinle are both on the bench.