RBS 6 Nations clash will be a classic encounter

First published in Rugby

Martin Johnson spent most of his playing career keeping Simon Shaw out of the England team and most of his latest incarnation as red rose manager doing the same.

But with France sending a giant forward pack to Twickenham for Sunday’s RBS 6 Nations showdown, Johnson has turned to the veteran Wasps lock to bring power and ‘punch’ to an England side desperate for a win.

Shaw, 35, will make his first Test start in nearly a year in place of London Irish lock Nick Kennedy as one of three changes to the team beaten 14-13 by Ireland at Croke Park.

Tom Croft’s extra pace and lineout agility has seen him edge James Haskell out of the back row while Harlequins winger Ugo Monye, fit again after a back injury, has replaced Paul Sackey. Shaw’s last England start was in the 2008 Six Nations and he has only appeared twice off the bench since Johnson took charge ahead of the autumn internationals.

Shaw insisted he did not see the irony in Johnson being the one to recall him to the England fold for the umpteenth time – but he did admit having doubts earlier this season it may never happen again.

“I picked up several niggly injuries and tried to play through them. The doubts start creeping in about your ability,” said Shaw.

“You try too hard to force things and you wonder if you can’t stick the pace anymore.”

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