Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Johnson: England young guns ready

Martin Johnson is convinced England's Grand Slam-chasing young guns will have enough fire in their hearts and fear in their bellies to "really have a crack" at Ireland on Saturday.

England are chasing their first RBS 6 Nations clean sweep in eight years, a blank record which dates back to 2003 and the year when Johnson captained the team to Rugby World Cup glory. Facing them at kick-off will be an Ireland side angered by their controversial defeat to Wales and determined to celebrate St Patrick's weekend by ruining England's party.

"We need a healthy edge, that is a good thing and we play better with that. It comes from the fact we are playing a very good Ireland team away from home and the final game and the position we are in. There will be a big buzz about the game," Johnson said.

"We have talked about it all week. We just need to give it a crack. We know the pitfalls of playing these guys and we can't fall into them.

"Our guys are as excited as they've been for any game this year. We see this as an opportunity more than anything.

"We have an opportunity to win a Grand Slam and that's a great place to be, that's where we want to be going into a big game. These guys are ready to really have a crack."

Harlequins number eight Nick Easter will captain England for the second time in place of Mike Tindall, who was ruled out of the game after suffering an ankle ligament strain.

Matt Banahan, Bath's 6ft 7in Channel Islander, takes over from Tindall at outside centre but Johnson has otherwise kept changes to a minimum.

England have used only 17 starting players during the championship with the only changes - Alex Corbisiero for Andrew Sheridan and Banahan for Tindall - enforced by injury.

"I think we have put down some markers (in the championship) and if we can finish it off it will be great," Johnson added. "We have been in two or three really close games and have just managed to keep ourselves the right side of it. Ireland haven't and lost them.


From Belfast Telegraph