Captain-elect Tindall fit for Cardiff cauldron

The Gloucester centre Mike Tindall, a short-priced favourite to beat Nick Easter to the England captaincy against Wales on Friday, was back on the training field yesterday, as were the Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie and the Wasps lock Simon Shaw, neither of whom played an active part in last week's red-rose camp in Portugal.

"Both Mike and Hendre are fit for selection," confirmed Martin Johnson. "As for Simon, there was nothing wrong with him anyway. It's just that when you get to his age, there aren't that many good days."

This light-hearted remark was entirely in keeping with the manager's mood: not sunny, exactly – no one ever accused Johnson of that – but relaxed. He may have lost three of his quickest, most athletic forwards in Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft and Lewis Moody, and seen an entire line-out strategy go up in smoke as a result of their various orthopaedic concerns, but he did not have the look of a man struggling to get to sleep at night. "We know we must strike the right balance in the back five of the pack," he acknowledged, "but we have good choices available to us. The people we've brought into the squad give us all the options we need."

It was left to his close colleague Graham Rowntree, who brings so much more to the back-room operation than an acute appreciation of the scrummager's art, to sharpen things up a little. "What do I expect in Cardiff? I expect a storm," he said. "Wales are under pressure. I think the last week has shown us they're under pressure."

Having made this reference to the widely-publicised Welsh vilification of Dylan Hartley, the England hooker, Rowntree ventured boldly into "I've started, so I'll finish" territory by adding: "Dylan is the least of my worries. Is he aggressive? Yes. Can he keep his composure? Yes. He plays with passion but I have no concerns about him over-stepping the mark."

There are many who believe that the Hartley affair adds to the gaiety of the nation – or rather, the gaiety of the Six Nations – and it may well be that Johnson is among them. During his own playing days, he occupied the place in Welsh hearts that Hartley occupies now. Did it prey on his mind? Did it heck. Judging by the way he talked yesterday, he considered, and still considers, the high level of anti-English hostility generated by the Cardiff crowd to be one of the things that make rugby life worth living.

"This game isn't about me or my memories, but Cardiff has always been a great place to play, and playing there at the start of a Six Nations tournament in World Cup year adds something," he said. "England teams have never been the most popular down there, but that's fine: the trip to the stadium straight through the middle of town was one of the better bus journeys. I'd rather have hostility than polite indifference."

Johnson will name his side tomorrow. There is little doubt about the shape of the back division, still less about the make-up of the front row now that the Welsh obsession with Hartley has made him close to undroppable. The rest of the pack is an issue. Strong cases can be made on behalf of Shaw, Louis Deacon, James Haskell, Joe Worsley and the uncapped Northampton flanker Tom Wood, only two of whom are likely to start, but the manager says he will make his decisions for proactive reasons rather than reactive ones.

"We've probably been too reactive in the past," he admitted when asked to reflect on occasions when individuals were selected purely to stop opponents playing, rather than play themselves. "Now, we're more settled. We know our players and what they bring a little better than we did, largely because guys have come into the side and performed well. The exciting thing is that the youngsters in the team are not being picked because they're young, but because they're the best."

Meanwhile, the England prop Paul Doran-Jones will leave Gloucester at the end of the season after agreeing terms with Northampton.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
business
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Sport
Germany's Andre Greipel crosses the finish line to win the sixth stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 194 kilometers (120.5 miles) with start in Arras and finish in Reims, France
tour de franceGerman champion achieves sixth Tour stage win in Reims
Extras
indybest
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil