Croft, Lawes back in England squad

by Staff Writer

Tom Croft and Courtney Lawes are in contention for England's Six Nations clash with Scotland at Twickenham on Sunday after returning to the squad following long-term injuries.

England manager Martin Johnson said on Tuesday Croft and Lawes were in the frame for this weekend's Calcutta Cup clash and warned that he would not shy away from changing a winning team.

"It's good to get them back and see where they are," Johnson said of Lawes and Croft.

"We'll see how they go over the next day or so and make a choice from there. They're in the mix."

British Lion Croft has not played for England since fracturing a shoulder during last year's defeat against South Africa at Twickenham.

The blindside flanker's place in the England starting line-up has since gone to Northampton youngster Tom Wood, who has impressed after making his debut in England's away win over Wales in Cardiff.

Lawes, outstanding in last year's internationals against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, has not played any part in the Six Nations after injuring a knee in January.

The 21-year-old Northampton second rower faces a fight to win his place back however, with locks Louis Deacon and Tom Palmer impressing in England's opening three Six Nations victories that have put them on course for a Grand Slam.

Johnson said the return of Croft and Lawes would intensify competition for places in the starting line-up, and said he would not hesitate to make changes if necessary.

"I think win or lose you're always going to pick the team that gives you the best chance of winning," Johnson said.

"There's always questions, always discussions about what we're going to do, how we can change, how we can get better. It's an okay place to be in at the moment.

"When (Croft and Lawes) come back the competition's going to be very fierce. Which is what you need in a squad.

"The more difficult questions we have at selection - with quality players forcing their way back into the team - the happier we'll be."

Injured captain Lewis Moody remains in doubt for the remainder of the campaign, with Johnson revealing that the Bath flanker's fitness was being monitored on a day-by-day basis.

Johnson meanwhile insisted England were not paying attention to bookmakers odds which have made them 1/14 favourites against the Scots.

"None of those bookies are playing," Johnson said.

"There's an expectation there and it gets out of hand either way.

"It's an easy game for them in a way. Everyone's talking about us but they'll come down and be desperate to get a win, to win at Twickenham, to beat England. If you start thinking 'Oh, they're not South Africa' you'll find yourself in trouble pretty quickly."

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