Johnson dealing with a mixed bag
November 3, 2009
Martin Johnson has been forced to delay naming his side to face Australia © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson can celebrate after being named as Twickenham's 'Player of the Century', but has been forced to delay naming his side to face Australia by the raft of injuries to have hit the England camp.
Johnson beat competition from Gareth Edwards, Jonah Lomu, Serge Blanco and his England team-mates Richard Hill, Neil Back and Lawrence Dallaglio to the award at Twickenham's centenary dinner.
Earlier however he had announced that the frequency of changes in the England squad due to injury had left the coaching staff requiring more time.
"Due to a number of players joining and leaving the squad over the last few days we have not reached a final decision on our 22 and therefore we have decided to delay naming the Test side until Wednesday," he said.
A full front-row of Phil Vickery, Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan remains sidelined, with Delon Armitage, Riki Flutey, Julian White and Tom Rees also out. Leicester lock Richard Blaze is struggling with a foot injury and London Irish's Nick Kennedy has been called in as cover from the Saxons squad.
Despite the injuries Johnson is in good spirits ahead of Saturday's showdown and believes that if they hit their targets then England can kill off Australia's Grand Slam attempt at the first hurdle.
"If we perform how we can we will give ourselves a chance of winning," said Johnson. "Some young players now have a chance and we have brought back some older players. There is a good blend in the squad."
Australia get their tour underway against Gloucester at Kingsholm on Tuesday, with nine capped internationals set to start.
Johnson has released 10 players to their clubs, for the weekend's Anglo-Welsh fixtures. Joe Worsley and Steffon Armitage have both been released, as has Northampton fullback Ben Foden.
Players released to clubs: Steffon Armitage (London Irish), David Barnes (Bath), George Chuter (Leicester Tigers), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Ben Kay (Leicester Tigers), Nick Kennedy (London Irish), David Strettle (Harlequins), Mathew Tait (Sale Sharks), Richard Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks), Joe Worsley (Wasps)