Johnson back after Italian job

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The Independent Online

England's World Cup captain Martin Johnson gave coach Clive Woodward a further fitness boost by emerging unscathed from the 'A' international against Italy in L'Aquila.

Johnson, in the unaccustomed role of leading England's second string, showed no adverse affects from his Achilles injury that meant two months on the sidelines.

The Leicester lock has not featured during England's Six Nations campaign, but could still press for inclusion against Scotland early next month.

"It was fairly quick out there, but I was reasonably happy with my own performance," said Johnson, after England's 33-27 victory. "I didn't feel too bad."

England saw a 25-6 lead evaporate during a frantic 10-minute spell when Italy scored three converted tries, making the most of their one-man advantage after visiting prop Will Green had been sin-binned.

"We played for 70 minutes, but just lost it for those 10 minutes," Johnson conceded.

"They had their best period of the game at that stage, and we lost a bit of concentration. Perhaps we were too comfortable in the game."

England's scoring honours went to Bristol wing Spencer Brown, who claimed a hat-trick of tries to keep the pressure on current England men Austin Healey and Ben Cohen.

Brown displayed all his finishing qualities, proving far too elusive for the Italian defence, although England almost ruined all his hard work.

"I am enjoying my rugby at the moment - I am feeling good," Brown admitted. "It is good to put pressure on those guys in front of me."