Johnson plots Boks' downfall
November 25, 2010
Martin Johnson's side are chasing their third victory of the autumn © Getty Images
Martin Johnson is set to return to the line-up that recorded a record victory over Australia when he names the England team to face South Africa at Twickenham on Saturday.
England swept the Wallabies aside 35-18 earlier this month and Johnson is expected to hand them another chance to impress against the Springboks. Captain Lewis Moody and outside centre Mike Tindall are both expected to return to the team after sitting out last Saturday's 26-13 win against Samoa.
The Leicester duo of flanker Tom Croft and tighthead prop Dan Cole are also ready to resume their starting roles as England chase a landmark victory over the world champions. There is no room in the 22 for Delon Armitage, who has lost his place on the bench to Bath's Matt Banahan and been released to play for London Irish this weekend. Stade Francais flanker James Haskell also misses out, with South African-born Hendre Fourie to provide the back-row cover against the Springboks.
Johnson made four changes for the Samoa game, in which Banahan did enough to oust Armitage, but he has otherwise kept as settled a side as possible over the last six Tests.
In that time England have beaten Australia home and away, performed creditably against France and New Zealand and risen to fourth in the International Rugby Board world rankings. "A team needs to have continuity in what it is doing and a group of players who you can identify as the England team," said Johnson.
While England have been forging their new identity, South Africa have struggled. They finished bottom of the Tri-Nations and head to Twickenham under pressure after losing 21-17 to Scotland.
South Africa's backs coach Dick Muir admitted the Springboks management team could face the axe if they lose to England. "Our public back home epitomise what it is about. It is ruthless," said Muir. "They expect you to come over here and get the win and if you don't get the result then are going to be heads that are going to roll.
"It will be a massive challenge for us. It has been a wake-up week for us after not getting the result against Scotland. England are really playing good rugby and we have got to have our wits about us. We are a proud nation and we are not proud of what happened at the weekend.
"We have to face up to the facts that we did not deliver and fortunately we have another week to be able to redeem ourselves."
The last time South Africa played at Twickenham on the back of a defeat to Scotland was in November 2002 - the so-called 'Battle of the Boks' that England won 53-3.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery
Monday Maul takes in retirement talk, England reshuffles, France's unfair advantage and Scotland's communication breakdown