England should drop Johnson, says Laporte

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The Independent Online

Bernard Laporte, the France coach, added to the Martin Johnson controversy yesterday by saying that the England captain should have been dropped for tomorrow's Six Nations match against Ireland.

Johnson has expressed his regret about the punch he threw at Robbie Russell of Saracens which earned him a yellow card in Leicester's Premiership match last Saturday and could yet bring him a suspension.

Clive Woodward, the England coach, claims he has no qualms about retaining the Lions lock as captain, pending a Rugby Football Union hearing next Thursday. Any suspension would almost certainly rule Johnson out of England's Six Nations game against France in Paris on 2 March.

However, Laporte, a strong disciplinarian, believes he should have taken decisive action. "I don't know and I don't really care if he plays against us in France," Laporte said. "It's a regrettable situation. I think what is regrettable is that we're not all pushing in the same direction.

"We all belong to the same sport, and we've all got a duty with regard to violent acts. It's not right for him to play this weekend."

Despite France's injury problems, Laporte has dropped the lock David Auradou for tomorrow's game against Wales following his ill-disciplined performance against the Italians a fortnight ago. Fabien Pelous, the former France captain, is on the bench after receiving a yellow card playing for his club, Toulouse, last weekend.

Laporte has been forced to make six changes to the side which opened with an unimpressive win over Italy in Paris. Raphael Ibanez will lead the side in the absence of the injured Fabien Galthie and the suspended Olivier Magne.

A phlegmatic Laporte insisted that the injury crisis gives him an opportunity to blood young players before the 2003 World Cup. "It's the third year running where we have hardly had the same team from one match to the next, but we have to make do," he said.