Captaincy not guaranteed for Moody
Lewis Moody will be on trial at Twickenham on Saturday after England manager Martin Johnson insisted the Rugby World Cup captaincy is still up for grabs.
Moody, 33, returns to lead England in their Investec international against Wales after missing the RBS 6 Nations title-winning campaign with a knee ligament injury. Tom Wood and James Haskell excelled in Moody's absence during the Six Nations, adding to England's stiff back-row competition, while Mike Tindall led the team to four victories.
"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."
He added: "You need that quality in the team and I think we missed him and Mike 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."
It would be a major surprise if Johnson did not name Moody as his World Cup captain when the final 30-man squad is announced on August 22 after back-to-back games against Wales.
Moody's leadership credentials were endorsed earlier this week by Tindall, who revealed the Bath flanker "is viewed in my eyes and everyone's as the skipper".
But England's back-row competition is arguably stronger now than at any time since the World Cup-winning year in 2003 with Haskell, Wood, Chris Robshaw, Hendre Fourie and Nick Easter all competing for places.
Moody understands the lie of the land. Having played just three and a half games for Bath since being injured the veteran international is itching for a taste of the action again.
"I am excited about this. Everyone is fired up and so they should be," he said. "Every game leading into the World Cup is a trial for the squad and the individuals.
"I have always felt I have to prove myself, no matter what stage I am at in my career. There is always competition and that is what makes for a good squad. You have to make sure you are playing as well as you can do - and if you are captain that is an honour on top of that."