Johnson set to name revised England squad
January 12, 2009
Johnson will name his revised England and England Saxons squads on Wednesday © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson will name his revised elite squads on Wednesday ahead of his side's assault on the 2009 Six Nations crown.
Johnson can make five form-based changes to the original squads named last July under the terms of the England Elite Player Squad (EPS) agreement but injuries, suspensions and retirements have given the England boss further leeway as he looks to conjure a Championship-winning formula.
The much-heralded agreement also allows for changes if a player has not featured for his club, or has been playing for his club in a position other than the one(s) nominated by England and as a result there are set to be several changes announced by Johnson.
Wasps flanker Tom Rees has been ruled out action for two months after suffering a knee injury earlier this month while his club mate Tom Palmer has been sidelined for three months after the lock underwent surgery on a shoulder injury.
Elsewhere, Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis is currently serving a six-week ban after being found guilty for a dangerous tackle on Perpignan's Dan Carter during their Heineken Cup clash in December. The No.9 is sidelined until January 25 and as a result will not see any action before the start of the Six Nations leaving the door open for Johnson to summon an active replacement.
Meanwhile, Leicester centre Dan Hipkiss is currently battling a hamstring injury that is expected to keep him out of action for month while Wasps' Josh Lewsey announced his retirement from international rugby last month to free up another place in the 32-man elite squad.
Johnson was forced into changes to the squads ahead of England's ultimately disappointing autumn series last year but these changes will be discounted ahead of Wednesday's announcement.
Wasps fly-half Danny Cipriani was promoted from the Saxons squad to replace the injured Jonny Wilkinson and is set to retain his place with his rival still sidelined through injury. Flanker Michael Lipman and fullback Nick Abendanon were also drafted in replacing Lewis Moody and Tom Varndell. The London Irish duo of fullback Delon Armitage and scrum-half Paul Hodgson and Harlequins' winger Ugo Monye and No.8 Nick Easter also joined the elite squad as cover for injured players.
Several names have been linked with either a call up to the elite squad or a return to its ranks including experienced heads like centre Mike Tindall and wing Mark Cueto while in-form players such as fullback/scrum-half Ben Foden and fullback Olly Morgan have also been backed for selection. However injury clouds hover over the Gloucester duo of Tindall and Morgan with a fractured finger set to rule the latter out of contention.
England begin their Six Nations campaign against Italy at Twickenham (February 7), before travelling to Wales (February 14) and Ireland (February 28). They then play host to France (March 15) and Scotland (March 21).
2008-09 Elite Player Squads (named July 1, 2008)