Johnson looks to cool Cole to inject Leicester values into England pack
MARTIN JOHNSON will be taking a prop sculpted in his own image when the England squad fly to Rome today.
Dan Cole (22) has graduated not just from the same school in Market Harborough as the England manager, but also from the same no-nonsense Leicester club.
Cole, who made his debut from the bench against Wales last weekend, gets his first full start, at the expense of David Wilson, who has been struggling to shake off deep bruising to his neck, which he picked up in that game.
England have delayed naming their bench until tomorrow to monitor not just Wilson's fitness but also that of locks Steve Borthwick and Simon Shaw, both of whom missed training yesterday because of a virus.
Lewis Moody was another who did not take part in contact sessions due to a hand injury, while Toby Flood has also been affected by the bug in camp. Riki Flutey, though, has recovered from the dead leg that led to Flood being called into the side last Friday and takes his designated place at inside centre.
Cole's elevation is no surprise given that he has shored up the Leicester scrum in the past three months following injuries to Julian White and Italy prop Martin Castrogiovanni. And what might the brooding, shaggy-haired one be telling his Italian team-mates about Cole just prior to kick-off at the Stadio Flaminio on Sunday?
"Target the bloke making his first start," said a deadpan Cole, who, like most of his front-row ilk, does not tend to do fussy or flamboyant.
He gets on with things, neither dizzy by his swift promotion through the ranks, nor daunted by the prospect of facing one of the meanest scrummaging units on the world circuit.
"Dan comes from the right sort of culture at Leicester," said another of their alumni, England forwards coach John Wells. "They don't moan, they get on with it and are hard-nosed."
Cole will need to be all that. This time last year he was getting used to the exotic National One circuit, ranging from the likes of Cornish Pirates to Sedgley Park, while on loan at Nottingham.
He was born within a stone's throw of Welford Road at the local infirmary, the grandson of a former Cumbrian miner.
A former back-row forward, Cole switched to the front-row, first at loosehead and then at tight, when joining the Leicester academy at 18.
Now he has been thrust to the fore, his stock rising as the result of a succession of impressive performances for the Tigers.
Meanwhile, Italy lock Carlo Del Fava and scrum-half Simon Picone have been ruled out with injury. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
England (v Italy) -- D Armitage; M Cueto, M Tait, R Flutey, U Monye; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Cole, S Shaw, S Borthwick (capt), J Haskell, L Moody, N Easter.