Johnno shows ruthless streak

England make three changes for clash with France

Last Updated: 11/03/09 7:40pm

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Johnson: searching for the correct team balance

Johnson: searching for the correct team balance

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Martin Johnson said Paul Sackey had paid the price for a poor run of form after the Wasps winger was one of three players dropped for England's RBS Six Nations fixture against France at Twickenham on Sunday.

"We felt Paul has not quite been on his game and it was time for Ugo to get a go."
Martin Johnson Quotes of the week

Sackey, an ever-present in England's first three Six Nations matches, has been left out of the entire match-day 22.

Harlequins' Ugo Monye gets the start on the wing, while versatile Newcastle back Matt Tait is preferred on the bench.

Team manager Johnson, who has overseen five defeats in seven Tests since taking charge, confirmed that Sackey's minor calf injury was not a factor in the decision.

"He (Sackey) has an injury at the moment but we wanted to make the change (anyway) - it's a selection on form," Johnson said.

"We have some good options - Matt Tait has been in good form - but we went with the specialist winger in Ugo.

Deserving

"He has come back from some injury problems and looks very strong and sharp. We felt Paul has not quite been on his game and it was time for Ugo to get a go."

Sackey has returned to Wasps and the club's director of rugby Ian McGeechan revealed he could feature in Saturday's Guinness Premiership match at Gloucester.

"He'll be doing some light training today (Wednesday) and some full training with the team tomorrow," McGeechan said.

"If everything goes well then I anticipate him being involved with us at the weekend."

England have also made two changes to the pack to take on France - Tom Croft replaces James Haskell at blindside flanker and Simon Shaw is preferred to Nick Kennedy in the second row.

Johnson said both switches were tactical and had words of consolation for Haskell and Kennedy.

Different attributes

"Simon Shaw and Nick are very different players, so it's just a question of the balance of the team that we're looking for," Johnson noted.

"I said to Nick: 'it's not that you haven't played well - you haven't done much wrong, it's just the balance we want this week for this particular game'.

"It's the same with James and Tom Croft - it's just about getting the balance right in the back five of the scrum.

"Tom's aerial game is very good and his general form has been very good as well. He played well for Leicester at the weekend and we know what he can do.

"He started a couple of games in the autumn series and we're comfortable with both those guys - we're quite lucky in the back row because we've got some good options there.

"It's unfortunate for Luke (Narraway) to drop off the bench - it would be good to get him involved a bit more, but you can only have so many in there."

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