Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby Six Nations

Six Nations: Easter takes charge for Slam decider

By Alex Lowe

Nick Easter will captain England against Ireland in tomorrow’s RBS Six Nations Championship clash after Mike Tindall was ruled out with an ankle ligament strain.

Matt Banahan will make his second Test start at outside centre in place of Tindall, who was injured in England's 22-16 victory over Scotland last weekend.

Saracens wing David Strettle, whose last Test appearance for England came against New Zealand on the 2008 summer tour, will fill the vacant back's position on the bench.

England boss Martin Johnson has otherwise kept changes to a minimum as England seek a win which would clinch a first Grand Slam since 2003.

With Banahan starting, the England manager will have used only 17 starting players in the championship.

Easter, who took over the leadership reigns when Tindall was forced off at half-time against Scotland, first captained England in a Test match in last November's victory over Samoa.

That was also the game in which Banahan, 24, made his first Test start at outside centre after winning his first five England caps on the wing.

Johnson reiterated his praise of the performance against Scotland and laid out the objectives for this weekend.

“We just need to be really smart with the ball in this game and control it very well, really put pressure on them,” Johnson said.

Johnson has been delighted to see the quality emerge from within his squad, when England's first-choice players have not been available.

“The depth of the squad has been good,” he said. “Lots of guys have stepped in and done very well.

“Even if you're not seeing them on the field, they're getting good involvement with the team in training.

“When they get their opportunities they've generally been taking them in the last year or so.

“The players have been great. When you've got guys like Jonny Wilkinson who has done everything, still out there training, trying to improve, that's the sort of player you want.”

Johnson also reflected on the decision to move World Cup matches away from Christchurch, following the earthquake which hit the city on February 22.

Seven matches, including England's September pool meetings with Argentina and Georgia, will be played elsewhere in New Zealand.

“When it (the earthquake) happened you just thought it was going to be very, very difficult (to stage matches in Christchurch),” Johnson said.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph