Monday 19 March 2018

Johnson axes Moody in 'toughest' call

Alex Lowe

England manager Martin Johnson described his selection decision for Saturday's trip to Murrayfield as "the toughest" of his 18-month tenure.

The "marathon" deliberations following England's 20-16 defeat to Ireland resulted in two key decisions: to retain Delon Armitage at full-back ahead of Ben Foden and replace open-side flanker Lewis Moody with Joe Worsley.

"It was probably the longest selection process since I have been involved, and the toughest but that's good. There is pressure on players to perform," said Johnson.

Armitage knows that more than most. The London Irish No 15 has been struggling for form all tournament and did not expect to be selected, even after proving he had recovered from a rib injury. Foden replaced him off the bench against Ireland and made an immediate impact, enhancing his already powerful claims to be awarded a first Test start.

Johnson left the final decision until yesterday morning but eventually decided to stick by Armitage and use Foden as an impact replacement.

Meanwhile, Scotland coach Andy Robinson insisted his inside knowledge would not be enough for the hosts to beat his native England.

The 45-year-old, sacked by England in 2006, will be reunited with several of his former charges. But while he has no qualms about passing on what he knows of their strengths and weaknesses, he warned that it is up to his own players to exploit any advantage that might bring.

"I can communicate about the (England) players but it's still about going out there and delivering," Robinson said. "They have a very good forward pack, they're very good at attacking through Danny Care.

"They have got pace, so they are a dangerous team. But if you get in their faces and you stop them from playing, you ask real questions of them."

Robinson made just one personnel change from the side beaten in Italy 10 days ago, which left Scotland firm favourites for the wooden spoon.

Nick de Luca was handed his first start since November 2008, returning at outside centre. Max Evans moves out to the wing, with Ulster's Simon Danielli dropping to the bench.

Scotland -- H Southwell; S Lamont, N De Luca, G Morrison, M Evans; D Parks, C Cusiter (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray; J Hamilton, A Kellock; K Brown, J Barclay, J Beattie. Replacements: S Lawson, G Cross, N Hines, A MacDonald, R Lawson, P Godman, S Danielli.

England -- D Armitage; M Cueto, M Tait, R Flutey, U Monye; J Wilkinson, D Care; T Payne, D Hartley, D Cole; L Deacon, S Borthwick (capt); J Haskell, J Worsley, N Easter. Replacements: S Thompson, D Wilson, C Lawes, L Moody, B Youngs, T Flood, B Foden.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport