LEEDS flanker Hendrie Fourie has fully recovered from a calf injury and will return to the England squad for Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash against Italy at Twickenham.
Fourie, the only specialist open-side in the group with captain Lewis Moody currently nursing a knee ligament injury, returns at the expense of Joe Worsley, who has been sent back to Wasps.
Despite the South-African star’s ability to play at open-side, Martin Johnson is likely to stick with the same team which got England’s campaign off to a winning start in Cardiff last Friday.
James Haskell started at No7 against Wales and debutant Tom Wood also impressed. Indeed, Wood, 24, was singled out for special praise by stand-in skipper Mike Tindall, who compared the Northampton flanker to World Cup winner Richard Hill.
South Africa-born Fourie, 31, made his England debut during the autumn internationals, coming on as a replacement in three matches and starting against Samoa.
If England manager Martin Johnson decides to stick with the team which won so impressively in Wales, it will represent a vote of confidence for under-fire centre Shontayne Hape, whose chances of being retained were increased by Johnson’s decision to allow Lions star Riki Flutey to return to Wasps.
Hape, a former New Zealand rugby league centre, admitted he was going through a slump in form last month and was caught out of position for Morgan Stoddard’s try last week.
But his performance director at Bath, Sir Ian McGeechan, expects the 29-year-old to respond in a positive fashion against Italy.
“No player comes through 100 per cent error free and I thought a lot of his performance was very good. He put himself about and had a lot to do in the way England played,” he said.