Friday 15 December 2017

Banahan to start for English as Tindall ruled out of Slam clash

Mick Cleary

England will go into their Grand Slam decider against Ireland without their captain Mike Tindall, who has been ruled out with an ankle ligament injury sustained against Scotland.

It is expected that this will be the only change in the starting line-up from the clash with Scotland, with Matt Banahan taking over in the centre and Harlequins' No 8 Nick Easter set to assume the captaincy role he filled when Tindall left the field at half-time last weekend.

The English might have been tempted to recall the experienced Tom Croft to the starting line-up, but have put their trust in rookie Northampton flanker Tom Wood, who has served them well since being a surprise call-up at the start of the championship.

Croft, who came on to score England's only try in the 22-16 Calcutta Cup win, continues on the bench. Saracens' David Strettle takes Banahan's place among the replacements.

England announce their side at lunchtime today ahead of their departure for Dublin.

Tindall was a try-scorer when England won a Grand Slam in 2003, beating Ireland 42-6 in the final game. They have not won the title since, with Ireland winning six of the past seven encounters between the sides.

England are not concerned by their mediocre recent past, nor by the feverish atmosphere that is likely to await them when they land in Ireland on St Patrick's Day.

As James Haskell, man of the match against Scotland, put it: "Unless they firebomb the bus or come storming the hotel with placards, it's all a bit of an irrelevance. Does all the pomp and circumstance that goes into a week like this put us off? No, it doesn't.

"Ireland have the most passionate fans in the world.

"That's something that you've got to thrive on. There are going to be nerves, there's going to be fear, but excitement also. It's a grand final.

"All that matters now is that you don't leave anything in the changing-room. You've got to put it all out there even if your leg is hanging off." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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