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Johnson relishing big game

Martin Johnson believes the loss of captain Mike Tindall could actually help fire England up to produce a "big finale" and clinch the Grand Slam against Ireland on Saturday.

Nick Easter will lead the team at the Aviva Stadium after Tindall, captain for England's first four RBS 6 Nations victories, was ruled out with ankle ligament damage. Tindall's place at outside centre has gone to Bath's Matt Banahan, while Saracens wing David Strettle comes onto the bench over two years after his last Test appearance.

"Captaincy does come into it, you can't deny that," Johnson said. "But the edge that is there in this game will be good for us. England play better in the bigger games. It's going to be tense but we need a bit of angst there. It suits us. Every game there's been this season seems bigger than the last. That's good."

He added: "You don't want things to peter out. You want to go out in a big finale. You want to go out with a big win."

Johnson was captain the last time England completed an RBS 6 Nations clean sweep in 2003, a triumph sealed coincidentally with a 42-6 win at the old Lansdowne Road.

Now England's manager, Johnson has a chance to become only the sixth man to win a Grand Slam as a player and a coach.

"We know what's at stake and that's great. We've worked hard to get there and we think we deserve to be here," Johnson said.

"We all know it's an opportunity to win a Grand Slam but if we start badly for the first 10 minutes that will feel a long way away.

"Contrary to popular belief we never banned anything in this squad, certainly not talking about Grand Slams. We couldn't win the Grand Slam in any other game, but we can in this one."


From Belfast Telegraph