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Johnson to return to Aussie line-up

Martin Johnson will confirm the England team to play South Africa at midday on Thursday - and he is set to name the same starting line-up that laid the foundations for the record 35-18 victory over Australia.

Captain Lewis Moody and outside centre Mike Tindall are both expected to return to the team after sitting out last Saturday's 26-13 win against Samoa. The Leicester duo of flanker Tom Croft and tighthead prop Dan Cole are also ready to resume their starting roles as England chase a landmark victory over the world champions.

There is no room in the 22 for Delon Armitage, who has lost his place on the bench to Bath's Matt Banahan and been released to play for London Irish this weekend. Stade Francais flanker James Haskell also misses out, with South African-born Hendre Fourie to provide the back-row cover against the Springboks.

Johnson made four changes for the Samoa game, in which Banahan did enough to oust Armitage, but he has otherwise kept as settled a side as possible over the last six Tests.

In that time England have beaten Australia home and away, performed creditably against France and New Zealand and risen to fourth in the International Rugby Board world rankings.

"A team needs to have continuity in what it is doing and a group of players who you can identify as the England team," said Johnson.

While England have been forging their new identity, South Africa have struggled. They finished bottom of the Tri-Nations and head to Twickenham under pressure after losing 21-17 to Scotland.

South Africa's backs coach Dick Muir admitted the Springboks management team could face the axe if they lose to England.

"Our public back home epitomise what it is about. It is ruthless," said Muir. "They expect you to come over here and get the win and if you don't get the result then are going to be heads that are going to roll. It will be a massive challenge for us. It has been a wake-up week for us after not getting the result against Scotland.

"England are really playing good rugby and we have got to have our wits about us. We are a proud nation and we are not proud of what happened at the weekend. We have to face up to the facts that we did not deliver and fortunately we have another week to be able to redeem ourselves."


From Belfast Telegraph