Johnson opts for strongest line-up
November 25, 2010
Martin Johnson's side are chasing their third victory of the autumn © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson has made four changes to his side for Saturday's clash with South Africa at Twickenham.
Openside Lewis Moody returns to the team and reclaims the captaincy with blindside Tom Croft, tight-head Dan Cole and outside centre Mike Tindall also back in the line-up having sat out last weekend's 26-13 victory over Samoa. As a result England will field the same starting XV that memorably swept Australia aside 35-18 earlier this month.
Moody and Croft take over from Hendre Fourie and James Haskell in the back row, Cole replaces David Wilson in the front row and Tindall replaces Matt Banahan in the No.13 shirt. Fourie, Wilson and Banahan are on the bench where Wasps lock Simon Shaw also returns in the place of Gloucester's Dave Attwood.
England are out to end a run of six international defeats against South Africa and were beaten 42-6 at Twickenham in 2008. There are only two survivors from that game in England's starting line-up two years on: Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter and Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer.
Johnson is relishing the different challenge presented by the world champions.
"Every Test is a cup final. There are not little Test matches," Johnson said. "Against Australia we took the lead and then kept our foot on the pedal. Last week our guys' intensity was a few per cent off and they have to be able to raise that, whoever they are playing.
"It is balls-out from the start to the end. If you are smart, accurate and disciplined then you have a chance to win. That is what we need to get to. It is going to be a big, big game. It is a cracking game to be involved in whenever you play South Africa. You know what you are going to get in terms of intensity.
"We know we will have to play at a very high level. It will be very physical, intense and a great Test match. Everyone is looking forward to a full-blooded Test match at Twickenham."
Johnson played down any suggestion that England are even close to being considered a finished article but he agreed his current squad had taken impressive strides in a short space of time.
"I think our standards are certainly higher than they were six to eight months ago. Our expectations of each other are higher and as a team we are able tell each other 'that needs to be better'," he said.
"This time last year it was a very different team to where we are now. We were back to square one. The great thing is the younger guys have come through and the older guys have come back and are playing well."
England will hold their captain's run at the team hotel on Friday after covers were placed on the Twickenham pitch to protect it from the cold weather.
England: B Foden (Northampton); C Ashton (Northampton), M Tindall (Gloucester), S Hape (Bath), M Cueto (Sale); T Flood (Leicester), B Youngs (Leicester); A Sheridan (Sale), D Hartley (Northampton), D Cole (Leicester), C Lawes (Northampton), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Croft (Leicester), L Moody (Bath, capt), N Easter (Harlequins).
Replacements: S Thompson (Leeds), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), H Fourie (Leeds), D Care (Harlequins), C Hodgson (Sale), M Banahan (Bath)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September