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Banahan set to take on Tindall role

Matt Banahan is set to be plunged in at the deep end as Mike Tindall's outside centre replacement for Saturday's Grand Slam showdown with Ireland.

Tindall suffered an ankle ligament strain in England's 22-16 victory over Scotland last weekend and is understood to have been ruled out of the Dublin clash after undergoing an MRI scan and visiting a specialist.

England manager Martin Johnson will confirm his team on Thursday morning

Banahan is set to make only his second Test start at outside centre, with Nick Easter to take over as captain for England's first game at the new Aviva Stadium.

The Harlequins number eight led England for the first time in a Test match against Samoa in the autumn.

Johnson is otherwise set to keep changes to a minimum. With Banahan starting, the England manager will have used only 17 starting players in the championship.

Leicester flanker Tom Croft is expected to remain among the replacements, despite marking his comeback from a fractured shoulder with a try-scoring appearance off the bench against Scotland.

Banahan, 24, is a converted lock forward who won his first five England caps on the wing before starting the victory over Samoa at outside centre. The 6ft 7in Channel islander made a forceful impact when he replaced Tindall in England's midfield at half-time against Scotland.

There were some fears Banahan could have been cited after a clash with Kelly Brown, which led to the Scotland number eight being carried off on a stretcher. Banahan had always denied leading with the forearm as he ran into Brown's attempted tackle and on Wednesday the citing officer concluded there was no case to answer.

Saracens wing David Strettle will fill Banahan's place on the bench ahead of Wasps centre Riki Flutey and Delon Armitage, who is technically available after his ban for pushing an anti-doping officer expired.


From Belfast Telegraph