Friday 15 December 2017

Johnson makes Easter captain

Nick Easter will captain England in Saturday's Test against Samoa after manager Martin Johnson made four changes from the team that beat Australia.

Leeds openside flanker Hendre Fourie has been handed his first Test start in place of regular captain Lewis Moody, who has been given a week's rest. Matt Banahan, who won his previous five caps on the wing, has been preferred to Delon Armitage as Mike Tindall's outside centre replacement.

Blindside flanker James Haskell and tight-head prop David Wilson will both start, with Tom Croft and Dan Cole on the bench for England's first meeting with Samoa since the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

Otherwise, Johnson has retained the core of the team that sealed a record 35-18 victory over the Wallabies last Saturday.

Easter has previously captained England in non-cap internationals against the Barbarians in 2008 and at the end of last season, but he has never led his country into a Test match.

England's attack coach Brian Smith has long identified Banahan, already a lock-turned-wing, as a potential Test-class outside centre. Banahan will form an all-Bath midfield partnership with Shontayne Hape, while Leicester pair Ben Youngs and Toby Flood continue in the half-backs.

Tom Palmer and Courtney Lawes get the chance to further their blossoming second-row partnership, with Dave Attwood back on the bench and poised to win his second cap.

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