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Easter ready to lead England as Moody ruled out

Nick Easter has declared himself ready to lead England into their Six Nations campaign in the absence of Lewis Moody, who was yesterday ruled out of action for six weeks with a knee injury.

Easter described the loss of Moody, who has been England captain since replacing Steve Borthwick for the last game of last season's Six Nations, as a "massive blow" to Martin Johnson's side.

With Leicester flanker Tom Croft already ruled out for the first three games with a shoulder injury and Courtney Lawes likely to miss the entire tournament with a knee injury, Easter admits the setbacks will test England's resolve and depth of their resources.

But the Harlequins No 8, who is almost certain to replace Moody as England captain for the Six Nations opener against Wales on February 4, says he would relish the opportunity to lead his country.

"Captaining England is a massive honour and I have enjoyed doing it in the past, so, of course if the opportunity came along, I would take it with both hands," said Easter.

"The job means you liaise with the referee on the field, but apart from that, the most important thing is just to make sure you are playing well. The other players want to follow a guy who is playing well, so it is crucial to do that, to be an inspiration to the team. I don't find that captaincy distracts me from my own game."

Bath confirmed scan results showed Moody had sustained an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his knee during his club side's victory over Aironi in their Heineken Cup match on Saturday.

Moody, who will undergo rehabilitation with his club, is now likely to miss England's first three championship matches against Wales in Cardiff and the Twicken-ham matches against Italy (February 12) and France (26).

Wales centre Tom Shanklin is another star nursing a knee injury, with confirmation yesterday that he will miss the whole Six Nations.

Irish Independent