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.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam