Moody may be a risk too far for England's World Cup trip

Johnson says he is hopeful after captain has scan but he must reassess his options for New Zealand

Martin Johnson does not yet believe that Lewis Moody, hobbling once again on that dodgy right knee of his, is at serious risk of missing next month's World Cup in New Zealand.

There again, he doesn't know for sure – and when a manager is still pondering major issues, like the captaincy, little more than a month before the most important tournament in the sport, it is difficult to argue that things are going swimmingly.

Moody, awarded the red-rose captaincy in March of last year, has played less than nine hours of competitive rugby since 2010 became 2011 and as the Bath flanker underwent another of his all-too-regular scans yesterday, the England hierarchy must surely have been turning their thoughts to alternatives: to Tom Wood of Northampton, Chris Robshaw of Harlequins and James Haskell of, er, the Ricoh Black Rams of Japan, none of whom would claim to be specialist breakaways in the Richie McCaw/ David Pocock mould, and to Hendre Fourie, the naturalised South African from Burgersdorp, who is very definitely a No 7, albeit one whose stock is lower now than it was before Christmas.

Johnson, suddenly wary of backing Moody as his World Cup leader before last weekend's narrow victory over Wales at Twickenham, was similarly non-committal in discussing the injury yesterday. "We're waiting for the scan results," he said. "It's not great that Lewis got injured, but I don't think it's on the very bad side of knee injuries. There's more good news than bad in that I don't think it will rule him out of the tournament, but we'll see." It was not, in truth, the most informative bulletin in the history of sports medicine.

This much is certain: if Johnson includes Moody in his final 30-man party, he will be taking a significant gamble. The captain may be an experienced hand – "Guys who have played a lot of rugby, over 10 or 15 years in his case, are better able to handle these problems," the manager argued – but World Cups are no places for the half-fit and the undercooked. Yet if he fails to prove his fitness to the satisfaction of the selectors, who will take on the captaincy? Mike Tindall, the Gloucester centre who knows what it is to win the Webb Ellis Trophy, is next in line, but his place in the first-choice team was not exactly reinforced as a result of events at Twickenham, where the 20-year-old Manu Tuilagi made the most of his debut appearance.

Rather like Brian Ashton before him, Johnson sees little sense in worrying about people who are not available to him. Far more pressing in his mind yesterday was what he called England's "passive defence" in the last 20 minutes of Saturday's contest – a deterioration that handed the initiative to the vibrant Welsh back-line runners and almost cost the home side the game. "We lost the last quarter 12-3, which wasn't great," he commented. "Some of the momentum went out of our rugby. We allowed them to get possession from certain situations more quickly than they should have done."

Jonny Wilkinson's brace of drop goals were fundamental to England's victory – a fact not lost on Toby Flood, the Leicester outside-half who had started the previous 11 internationals at the great man's expense. "There's always a possibility that Jonny will turn in a stand-out game if he has the opportunity," reflected Flood, who is expected to play this weekend's return warm-up match in Cardiff.

"Have I ever been in charge of the No 10 shirt? I've never thought so, and there are probably 58 million people in England who don't think I should be in charge of it." The poor man could perform like Barry John at the Millennium Stadium and still not force the great unwashed into a change of opinion.

Two of England's injured tight forwards, the prop Andrew Sheridan and the lock Courtney Lawes, are back in full-contact training and in contention for some meaningful activity on Saturday. The Welsh also have people on the way back – the full-back Lee Byrne, the stand-off James Hook, the prop Adam Jones – while Morgan Stoddart, who suffered a particularly gruesome leg injury at Twickenham, is due out of hospital today after a successful operation.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
Pistorius leaves Pretoria High Court to be taken to prison
news

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
News
i100
Sport
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album