Sunday 21 January 2018

Johnson lays down gauntlet to returning captain Moody

Alex Lowe

Lewis Moody will be on trial at Twickenham today after England manager Martin Johnson insisted the Rugby World Cup captaincy is still up for grabs.

Moody (33) returns to lead England against Wales after missing the Six Nations title-winning campaign with a knee ligament injury.

After the tournament, Johnson confirmed Moody was the man he wanted to lead England into the World Cup, fitness permitting, but there was a clear change in tone yesterday.

"I've always said guys have got to get their place in the team," Johnson said.

"If any player isn't playing as well as another guy, then is that other guy going to play? Well, yes.

"When we name the squad, we will name our captain. Everyone is judged on merit and one of Lewis' merits is his leadership.


"You need that quality in the team and I think we missed him and Mike (Tindall) in the final Six Nations game in Dublin.

"Lewis, being who he is and what he has done, brings a huge amount of intangibles to the team but also adds to the collective."

Moody will captain a changed but strong England team that features Riki Flutey, Delon Armitage and Jonny Wilkinson in the starting line-up for the first time since the 2010 Six Nations.

Matt Stevens returns -- having been absent from the squad for nearly three years after a ban for cocaine use -- while the powerhouse Leicester centre Manu Tuilagi will make his debut.

Welsh out-half Stephen Jones will win his 101st cap today, making him Wales' most decorated international by moving one Test appearance ahead of Gareth Thomas -- only 13 players have played more matches in Test history.

England v Wales,

Live, Sky Sports 1, 2.30

Irish Independent

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