Friday 15 December 2017

Johnson's big guns return to face Boks

England manager Martin Johnson has reverted to his strongest line-up for tomorrow's Test against South Africa.

After making four changes for last week's 26-13 win against Samoa, Johnson has named the same starting XV that laid the foundations for England's record victory over Australia.

Lewis Moody returns to captain the team from openside flanker and Mike Tindall reclaims his place at outside centre from Matt Banahan, who has been included on the bench.

The Leicester pair of flanker Tom Croft and tight-head prop Dan Cole also return to the starting team as England look to end an encouraging Autumn Series with victory over the world champions.

The only change to the 22-man squad from the 35-18 victory over the Wallabies is the inclusion of Banahan for Delon Armitage.

Hendre Fourie has held off the challenge from James Haskell to provide the back-row cover in what will be a special occasion for the South Africa-born flanker.

Johnson has kept changes to a minimum since the summer tour of Australia, when the likes of Cole, Courtney Lawes, Ben Foden, Chris Ashton and Ben Youngs announced their arrival on the Test scene.

England will have only used 24 players in their autumn Tests against the Tri Nations giants New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. On the back of that consistency of selection -- helped by some good fortune on the injury front -- England have risen to fourth in the world rankings.

Conversely, the Springboks, who finished last in the Tri Nations, are under increasing pressure following last week's 21-17 defeat to Scotland.

Johnson is relishing the different challenge presented by the world champions. "They are coming off a loss, but we are playing a very good team and we will have to play at a very high level," he said.

"It is another week and another challenge and we're looking forward to a full-blooded Test match.

"Some of our guys have not played South Africa in a Test match before and we are preparing them for what it is like."

England (v South Africa) -- B Foden; C Ashton, M Tindall, S Hape, M Cueto; T Flood, B Youngs; A Sheridan, D Hartley, D Cole, C Lawes, T Palmer, T Croft, L Moody (capt), N Easter. Reps: S Thompson, D Wilson, S Shaw, H Fourie, D Care, C Hodgson, M Banahan.

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