Johnson with options ahead of France match

England manager Martin Johnson

England manager Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson, the England manager, has a plethora of options available in the back row for England’s next 6 Nations match this weekend, against France.

With England captain Lewis Moody returning from injury in his side’s 38-8 victory over Northampton last weekend, as well as Leicester’s Tom Croft also nearing full fitness, Johnson must decide whether to shuffle his pack following their past two wins over Wales and Italy.

Moody, 32, was named England captain for their final match of the 2010 6 Nations and continued to lead the side during last summer’s Southern Hemisphere tour, however the former Leicester flanker has been injured for much of this season and missed out on this season’s Autumn Internationals.

The 63 times capped England player, who has also turned out three times for the British and Irish Lions, moved to the Rec last summer and came on for the final 20 minutes of his new side’s match to prove his fitness to his former teammate, and now England manager, Johnson.

With Tom Wood making his debut against Wales, and Hendre Fourie returning from injury to make the bench against Italy, Johnson could have a selection headache ahead of England’s match against France at Twickenham on Saturday, which some are already calling the Grand Slam decider.

James Haskell has been playing out of position in the last two matches at open-side but has put in two high calibre performances in which he also managed to cross the line against Italy. It could well be that Haskell moves to the blind-side to allow Moody to take up the open-side sport, leaving Nick Easter at number eight and allowing Northampton’s Wood to drop to the bench for what is sure to be a match of the highest intensity.

With Croft yet to make his competitive comeback for Leicester yet, it is expected that he will miss out this time round as he looks to make a full return to match fitness.

England’s match against France takes place on Saturday 26 February at 17:00 at Twickenham.

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