But with France sending a giant forward pack to Twickenham for Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown, Johnson has turned to the veteran Wasps lock to bring power and “punch” to an England side desperate for a win.
Shaw, 35, will make his first Test start in nearly a year in place of London Irish lock Nick Kennedy as one of three changes to the team beaten 14-13 by Ireland at Croke Park.
Tom Croft’s extra pace and lineout agility has seen him edge James Haskell out of the back row while Harlequins winger Ugo Monye, fit again after a back injury, has replaced Paul Sackey.
Shaw’s last England start was in the 2008 Six Nations and he has only appeared twice off the bench since Johnson took charge ahead of the autumn internationals.
Shaw insisted he did not see the irony in Johnson being the one to recall him to the England fold for the umpteenth time – but he did admit having doubts earlier this season it may never happen again.
“I picked up several niggly injuries and tried to play through them. The doubts start creeping in about your ability,” said Shaw. “You try too hard to force things and you wonder if you can’t stick the pace anymore.”
Shaw’s inclusion comes at the expense of Kennedy rather than captain Steve Borthwick, whose form has been widely criticised but whose place, Johnson confirmed, was never in question.
“Steve is our captain so I didn’t consider that,” Johnson explained.
“He has done and is doing a tremendous job for us in sometimes very difficult circumstances.
Sackey suffered a calf injury against Ireland but Johnson confirmed he was omitted for Monye on form grounds. “I just don’t think Paul has been at his best during the tournament,” said Johnson.
All the focus in the England camp this week has been on discipline after they conceded 18 penalties and two more yellow cards in the defeat to Ireland. Johnson called top referee Wayne Barnes into the camp to lecture the squad and even based their fitness training on repetitions of 18 in the hope of hammering home the message.