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Tindall set to be sidelined

England manager Martin Johnson is expected to confirm captain Mike Tindall will miss the Grand Slam showdown with Ireland when he names his team on Thursday.

Tindall suffered an ankle ligament strain in England's 22-16 victory over Scotland last weekend and is understood to have been ruled out after undergoing an MRI scan and visiting a specialist. Matt Banahan is set to fill Tindall's boots at outside centre - only his second Test start in the position - with Nick Easter likely to take over as captain.

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

There is no room for Courtney Lawes, who will have to wait until the World Cup warm-up Tests to make his England return as he continues his comeback from a knee ligament injury.

Banahan 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 stretchered off.

Banahan had always denied leading with the forearm as he ran into Brown's attempted tackle and the citing officer concluded there was no case to answer.

England's options to fill the vacant back's position on the bench are Saracens wing David Strettle and Wasps centre Riki Flutey, while Delon Armitage will be available after his eight-week ban for pushing an anti-doping officer expires overnight.

The London Irish full-back has been training with the England squad during his suspension but it would be a surprise if Johnson brought him straight back in for such a big game.


From Belfast Telegraph