Johnson pins hopes on Tait
THE spotlight yesterday fell on Martin Johnson's decision to recall Mathew Tait and on an England line-up primed for attack.
However, it was the rallying cry of scrum coach Graham Rowntree that brought into sharp focus the key battleground in Saturday's Six Nations game against Wales at Twickenham.
"We've got our hands full with the Wales front row," said Rowntree, who witnessed in South Africa the power of Wales' all-Lions triumvirate. "It's about being respectful, but we can't be overawed. It's all about our attitude, our collective want."
Wales are vastly more experienced in the front row (162 caps to 33), with Gethin Jenkins, Mathew Rees and Adam Jones rekindling the partnership that shone for the Lions. England, without the injured Andrew Sheridan, Phil Vickery and Julian White, will have to punch above their weight in the form of Tim Payne, Dylan Hartley and David Wilson if Tait and his back-line colleagues are to have any prospect of seeing significant action. Tait is one of four changes in the backs from the side beaten 19-6 by New Zealand in November.
There is a real sense of England switching tack, of them being bolder in their approach, less inhibited and more inclined to trust in the pace of Tait, the shrewdness of Riki Flutey, the thrust of Delon Armitage and the get-up-and-go instincts of Danny Care at scrum-half.
There will be no rash clarion call to throw the ball around for the sake of it, but England have embraced a different outlook, one that promises at the very least a more invigorating ride. Wales were last night boosted by Lee Byrne's successful appeal against a two-week ban following his brief appearance as an illegal 16th player during the Ospreys' Heineken Cup victory over Leicester.
Scotland coach Andy Robinson, meanwhile, has opted for in-form, attacking players for Sunday's home game against France. He has made six changes from the side that lost to Argentina in the autumn.
A quartet from Glasgow Warriors are drafted in -- centres Max Evans and Graeme Morrison along with flankers John Barclay and Kelly Brown -- while fit-again Gloucester prop Alasdair Dickinson is called up and Chris Paterson gets the nod at full-back. However, out-half Dan Parks does not even make the bench. France name their team today.
England (v Wales) -- D Armitage; M Cueto, M Tait, R Flutey, U Monye; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Wilson; S Shaw, S Borthwick (capt); J Haskell, L Moody, N Easter. Reps: S Thompson, D Cole, L Deacon, S Armitage, P Hodgson, T Flood, B Foden.
Scotland (v France) -- C Paterson; T Evans, M Evans, G Morrison, S Lamont; P Godman, C Cusiter (capt); A Dickinson, R Ford, M Low; N Hines, A Kellock; K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie. Reps: S Lawson, A Jacobsen, R Gray, A MacDonald, R Lawson, A Grove, H Southwell.