Ruck and Maul: England may go for Youngs or Johnson could take the Micky

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson will announce England's revised squad at Twickenham on Wednesday, with up to five changes permitted on form to the 32 players in last July's version, plus further alterations for injury, suspension or retirement. Some of us head-scratching hacks have a catch-all phrase to cover this process: "What Johnno wants, Johnno gets."

There were 15 temporary changes during the autumn series – including back-rower James Haskell filling in for prop Julian White, though doubtless there was a mystery sub-clause to cover that. Based on like-for-like replacements, there appear to be vacancies for at least three props and two flankers with White, Phil Vickery, Andy Sheridan, Joe Worsley and Tom Rees injured. Harry Ellis' knee problem gives a chance to a young scrum-half; it might have been Wasps' Joe Simpson until he dislocated a shoulder so Micky Young of Newcastle or Leicester's Ben Youngs could get the call.

Shane Geraghty and Courtney Lawes played for England in November when Riki Flutey and Simon Shaw were injured; if the latter pair are restored, the Northampton duo will need to find another way in. And Saints' free-scoring wing Chris Ashton is said by a source to be a "wild card" for selection, though it would need one out of Mark Cueto, Matt Banahan, Ugo Monye, Mathew Tait or Olly Morgan to be dropped. We think.

Sarries capture attention

To make a cursory examination of Brendan Venter's comments last week about refereeing would be more bonkers than Dizzee Rascal, such was the wide-ranging nature of the Saracens director of rugby's complaints.

Follow-up rants are littering the blogosphere but we recommend BBC Rugby for the radio interview with Venter (conducted after his half-hour session with newspaper reporters) which gave rise to an RFU disciplinary charge. Every post-match Saracens press conference is attended by chief executive (and former journalist) Edward Griffiths, who stood silently by while Venter rattled on after defeat by Leicester. A heat-of-the-moment misjudgement or a canny attempt to set the news agenda? Venter's last words to the press were: "You wanted a story; you've got one."

This rampantly ambitious club, who have been in talks about moving to London's Olympic Stadium, have predicted filling Wembley in the meantime, and are now offering to refund home half-season tickets if the team loses.

My name is Prince

No sooner had we given a shout to the new North Wales team than we heard of a change of name. Instead of Rygbi Gogledd Cymru, it will be RGC 1404 in a nod to the year Owain Glyndwr was crowned Prince of Wales. A history lesson to ponder for 1404's first opponents, the Leicester Development XV, not to mention the Welsh Rugby Union's proudly English head of performance, Joe Lydon.

Sea it to believe it

Best of British to Acklam and Hartlepool Rovers Under-15s who have moved their fixture this morning to Seaton Carew beach to avoid snow. Acklam's U-15 coach Jim Ward said: "We trained in the snow on Tuesday but we agreed with Rovers that this seemed the best way to get a game and we'll have two half-hour matches of 12-a-side. That's the plan, though we're a bit concerned about the wind whipping in off the North Sea."

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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