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Hill's return boosts England
John Mehaffey in Sydney | November 13, 2003 09:37 IST
British and Irish Lions flanker Richard Hill is certain to be named in the England side to meet France in Sunday's rugby World Cup semi-finals after declaring himself fit and available on Wednesday.
The team will be named on Thursday morning after coach Clive Woodward delayed an announcement for 24 hours to allow Hill maximum time for recovery.
"I'm available for selection and would like very much to play at the weekend."
Hill, a hugely influential figure on the blindside flank, has been badly missed by England who have under-performed so far in the tournament.
There was further good news for England when fullback Josh Lewsey and winger Iain Balshaw both passed fitness tests, which will enable Woodward to pick from a full squad. Utility back Iain Healey, flown from London as cover, will now return home.
France, whose form has been a polar opposite to England's, named an unchanged side for Sunday's match, although coach Bernard Laporte has reshuffled the bench.
Clement Poitrenaud replaces utility back Pepito Elhorga, who flew back to France after his father died on Sunday evening. Elhorga will return to Sydney just before the game.
Among the replacement backs, centre Damien Traille has been named ahead of Brian Liebenberg.
"We are very pleased by our performance against Ireland," said manager Jo Maso. "It was very easy to pick the team for this match."
Defending champions Australia, who meet Cup favourites New Zealand on Saturday, also received a boost when vice-captain and lock David Giffen passed a fitness test.
Giffen had suffered a shoulder injury followed by a leg problem and will start Saturday's match on the bench.
"He is the vice-captain of the side, a lineout leader, and a guy with great experience, and the last 20 minutes of the game against New Zealand are probably going to be the crucial 20 minutes of the game," said coach Eddie Jones.