Johnson opts for unchanged team to face Italy

England manager Martin Johnson has named an unchanged team for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham.

England manager Martin Johnson has named an unchanged team for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Italy at Twickenham.

Johnson will send out the same starting XV that laid the foundations for England’s 26-19 victory over Wales, their first in Cardiff since 2003.

The only change to England’s 22-man squad comes on the bench, where Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie replaces Joe Worsley after recovering from a calf injury.

Fourie was not considered for the Wales game but he came through a 40-minute appearance for Leeds unscathed last weekend to prove his fitness.

Johnson’s decision to leave his starting line-up intact means a Twickenham debut for the Northampton flanker Tom Wood, who made such an impressive introduction to Test rugby last week.

Mike Tindall continues as captain in the injury-enforced absence of Lewis Moody, who is targeting a return to action for the France game on February 26.

Twelve months ago, Johnson loaded his bench with forwards – including a full front row – in a bid to counter the Italians’ ferocious power.

England produced a one-dimensional performance in Rome that was devoid of creative ideas and they scraped a 17-12 victory.

That dismal game was not helped by the old breakdown interpretations but it proved a watershed for England, with senior players demanding a change in approach.

One year on and the fact Johnson has retained a four-three split on the bench indicates a greater confidence in England’s attacking options.

Toby Flood, Tom Palmer, Chris Ashton, Ben Youngs and Ben Foden will all start on Saturday having brought an extra dimension to England’s game.

England team to play Italy in the RBS 6 Nations championship at Twickenham on Saturday, February 12 (kick-off 14.30):

B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tindall (Gloucester Rugby, capt), S Hape (Bath Rugby), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), L Deacon (Leicester Tigers), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Wood (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (Stade Francais), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: S Thompson (Leeds Carnegie), D Wilson (Bath Rugby), S Shaw (London Wasps), H Fourie (Leeds Carnegie), D Care (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Banahan (Bath Rugby).

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