BATTERING RAM Tom Johnson could be England’s most potent weapon against Scotland according to Tom Croft, who believes the dogged nature of the Calcutta Cup clash could earn the Exeter Chief a recall.
Blindside flanker Johnson, 30, won the first of his five caps against South Africa last summer and started England’s first two autumn internationals against Fiji and Australia before making way for Tom Wood.
Wood excelled upon his return, collecting the man-of-the-match award in England’s famous win over New Zealand and can expect to retain the No.6 jersey, especially with Croft only just back in action following a long-term neck injury.
Croft, however, believes that with England’s Six Nations opener coming against the Auld enemy, Johnson’s power could be a key asset for Stuart Lancaster’s side.
“He is a different body type and potentially is a more physical and robust sort of player in close quarters and obviously it is down to the coaches what sort of balance they want to have,” said Croft, speaking in his role as an ambassador for energy supplier SSE.
“Different teams pose different threats and if they perceive it to be a more physical battle they may opt for Johnson for that more robust carrying.
“Tom lost his spot to Woody [Tom Wood] through the autumn internationals and he will want to gain that back.
“Historically the Scottish game has always been a bit of an arm wrestle. It's been very similar in the last couple of years and very small margins have won the game so maybe he could be used there.
“Either player if selected will do a great job. That is the privilege of playing for your country and you put everything in. And whatever lad is picked I am sure will go well.”
When Croft is ready to make his return to the international scene, Johnson’s task of forcing his way into the starting XV will be all the more difficult with Calum Clark and James Haskell also knocking on the door. But Croft believes that with the British & Irish Lions tour to Australia on the horizon, Johnson will be all the more determined to seize back his jersey.
“Tom will be purely focusing on the Six Nations,” he added. “It is a huge tournament for this side and off the back of England’s autumn international performance against New Zealand there is going to be some expectation on their shoulders.
“That will be Tom’s primary goal but being a Lions' year there is that added bit of pressure and the majority of players won't be thinking about it but it will be in the back of their minds.
“It will be nagging away that if they perform well over the next five games and in the RBS 6 Nations then there is likelihood they will get a Lions call- up which is a huge accolade.”
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