Mike Tindall named captain as England announce squad

Northampton flanker Tom Wood will make his England debut in Friday night's RBS 6 Nations clash with Wales at the Millennium Stadium.

Wood was not included in Martin Johnson's original 33-man squad but he has been promoted from the Saxons straight into the starting XV after injuries forced England to reshuffle their pack.

Lewis Moody and Tom Croft are both missing from the back row while Northampton lock Courtney Lawes is in danger of being sidelined for the whole championship with a knee injury.

With Moody out, Mike Tindall has been appointed England captain for the first time.

Wood, 24, will pack down at blindside flanker and offer England a back-row lineout option in Croft's absence, while James Haskell will start in the less familiar role on the openside.

Leicester lock Louis Deacon returns in the second row to partner Tom Palmer in place of Lawes.

Wood is in his first year with Heineken Cup quarter-finalists Northampton after three seasons at Worcester.

He was born in Coventry and played for the Barkers' Butts club, which lists Danny Grewcock and Neil Back among its international alumni.

Wood graduated through the Worcester academy and overcame a broken leg with a successful spell in New Zealand before forcing his way into the Warriors first team in the 2007-08 season.

The athletic 6ft 5in, 16st 7lb flanker broke into the Saxons squad this time last year and, after making an immediate impression at Franklin's Gardens, he is now in line for his Test debut in Cardiff.

Wood will don the six jersey. Haskell is traditionally a blindside but his breakdown and turnover work has been one of the big improvements in his game since moving to Stade Francais.

Johnson said of the new man: "It's a chance for Tom to come and play. Would he have got there with all the guys fit? He probably wouldn't, but he's worth a look and worth his place - he was very impressive in the autumn when he came in and the way he's playing, most importantly, with his club, he's a pretty impressive player.

"It's not great to have guys injured but great to get Tom on the field in a big-time Test match. He's 24, 25, so he's not in his first year of it, he's got a bit of experience.

"Tom's good in the breakdown, even though he's an aerial player, Louis Deacon is also a good all-round player, very good at the breakdown and very good organisationally in the line-out, so I think we're fine.

"We've got good carrying ability in that back five as well with James (Haskell) coming in, all those back-row guys are slightly different and it is a good combination we've got."

Tindall got the nod ahead of Nick Easter as captain, but Johnson backed the latter to marshal the pack and inexperienced scrum-half Ben Youngs.

He said: "Nick will do a good job leading the forwards, he's closer in to the play there and will give us direction with Ben and Toby (Flood) at 10.

"Mike's a good captain, very experienced, but if he's not there we've got Nick, Louis Deacon who's had a real good week as well - it's good to have him back and in good form."

Talk of the World Cup later in the year has featured prominently in the build-up to the game, but Johnson is refusing to look too far ahead.

"We want to push in competitions, which we always do," Johnson said. "If we win (the game) then great, if not we'll take our medicine and play from there.

"Despite what's happening later in the year - we all know about that - the Six Nations tournament as a stand-alone, if there were no other games for six months, it would still be a big game.

"The Six Nations is a great tournament and it's also five stand-alone important Test matches. We've got to go out there and perform with real tempo in what we do, real accuracy, real passion - that'll put us in a good place."

England team to play Wales in the RBS 6 Nations at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff on Friday, February 4 (kick-off 7.45pm):

B Foden (Northampton Saints); C Ashton (Northampton Saints), M Tindall (Gloucester, capt), S Hape (Bath), M Cueto (Sale Sharks); T Flood (Leicester Tigers), B Youngs (Leicester Tigers); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), D Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), L Deacon (Leicester Tigers), T Palmer (Stade Francais), T Wood (Northampton Saints), J Haskell (Stade Francais), N Easter (Harlequins).

Replacements: S Thompson (Leeds Carnegie), D Wilson (Bath), S Shaw (Wasps), J Worsley (Wasps), D Care (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon), M Banahan (Bath).


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