Johnson return hands England an injury boost

Ross McLean
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Tom Johnson won his last England cap in June against New Zealand
ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster received a welcome boost yesterday ahead of the Six Nations as Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson is set to return to competitive action following a long-term neck injury.

Lancaster had to contend with a multitude of injuries during the autumn internationals, particularly in the forwards, after British and Irish Lions Alex Corbisiero, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Dan Cole and Geoff Parling were all ruled out of the series.

Wasps lock Joe Launchbury’s rehabilitation from a recurring nerve problem in his neck has since stalled, casting doubt on his fitness ahead of England’s first match of the championship against Wales in Cardiff on 6 February.

Johnson has not played so far this season and had an operation on his neck in October, while his last international appearance came in England’s 20-15 loss to New Zealand in June.

“Tom Johnson is probably going to play in our A League game next week,” said Exeter head coach Rob Baxter, referring to the Sandy Park club’s second string clash with Wasps on 22 December.

The 32-year-old has eight caps to his name and became the first Exeter player to appear for England following their promotion to the top-flight in 2010 when he toured South Africa in 2012.