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Page last updated at 11:12 GMT, Thursday, 17 March 2011

Six Nations: England pick Banahan for Grand Slam match

RBS Six Nations Championship: Ireland v England
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin Date: Saturday, 19 March Kick-off: 1700 GMT
Coverage: Watch on BBC One, BBC One HD, Red Button, BBC Sport website and BBC America; listen on BBC Radio 5 live and online; text commentary online and mobiles


Banahan eyes Six Nations impact

Matt Banahan will replace the injured Mike Tindall at centre in England's team for their Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

Nick Easter has been made captain in Tindall's absence, but the team is otherwise unchanged from last weekend.

Tom Wood retains his place at blind-side flanker despite Tom Croft's try-scoring return against Scotland.

Tindall suffered a ligament strain to his left ankle during Sunday's 22-16 win at Twickenham.

The 32-year-old has been England's stand-in captain for the Six Nations, with squad skipper Lewis Moody ruled out of the championship with knee ligament damage.

Johnson plays down Grand Slam challenge

Harlequins number eight Easter captained England to victory over Samoa in November.

On the loss of Tindall, manager Martin Johnson said: "It's a big blow for us and really disappointing for Mike - he's had a few injuries over the years.

"He's been with us all the way through the autumn and this campaign and led us very well.

"But Matt Banahan has been in great form. He was on the wing early on but he's played quite a bit at 13 with Bath and he's done a lot of reps there in training.

"He's been very good and hopefully it will be a pretty smooth transition."

Matt Banahan
Banahan on the charge during the win over Italy

Johnson admitted it was a tough call to leave Croft out of the starting line-up, saying: "Like Jonny Wilkinson, there's always a good reason to pick these players because they're world class.

"But the guys who've been there have been playing very well and Croft gives us some real impact off the bench."

Johnson has been delighted with the team's attitude in training so far this week.

"The players have been great," he said. "We had a small group meeting earlier in the week, and they were talking about how to play better - how to get a grip back on the game.

"We just need to be really smart with the ball in this game, control it really well and put pressure on them."

Saracens back David Strettle is the new name on the replacements' bench.

The 27-year-old made his England debut against Ireland at Croke Park four years ago and celebrated with a try, and his return to the matchday squad is reward both for his persistence in overcoming a series of injuries and his impressive form this season.

Easter embraces England captaincy

Johnson added: "The depth of the squad is good. Lots of guys have stepped in and done really well.

"David has been in really good form but hasn't had a chance because the other guys in the back three have been playing so well."

Banahan is available to fill in at outside centre after avoiding disciplinary action for his part in an incident in the game against Scotland.

The official citing officer concluded that the 17st 6lb 24-year-old had no case to answer for the clash which led to opponent Kelly Brown being taken off on a stretcher.

Banahan had denied leading with the forearm as he ran into Brown's attempted tackle shortly after coming off the bench at Twickenham.

England team to face Ireland:

Ben Foden, Chris Ashton, Matt Banahan, Shontayne Hape, Mark Cueto, Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Alex Corbisiero, Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Tom Palmer, Tom Wood, James Haskell, Nick Easter (c).

Replacements: Steve Thompson, Paul Doran-Jones, Simon Shaw, Tom Croft, Danny Care, Jonny Wilkinson, David Strettle.

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see also
Ireland 24-8 England
19 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Trimble and Sexton in Irish team
16 Mar 11 |  Irish
England's last three Grand Slam attempts
17 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Saturday's Six Nations forecast
18 Mar 11 |  News
Grand Slam talk allowed - Johnson
14 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Johnson relieved by 'tough' win
13 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union
Robinson frustrated by Scots loss
13 Mar 11 |  Scottish
England 22-16 Scotland
13 Mar 11 |  Rugby Union

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