Hartley hands boss Johnson a timely boost

HOOKER Dylan Hartley gave England manager Martin Johnson some much-needed cheer after declaring himself fit for the autumn Test opener against Australia on Saturday.<br /><br />The Northampton star has been struggling of late with a hamstring injury but was included in Johnson&rsquo;s youthful 22-man squad for the Twickenham showdown.<br /><br />With no fewer than 27 players unavailable through injury, Hartley&rsquo;s fitness comes as a rare boost to Johnson, who was forced to delay naming his squad yesterday.<br /><br />&ldquo;From the coaches&rsquo; point of view we want continuity as much as we can get it but there are always going to be changes,&rdquo; Johnson said.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hopefully these injuries are an exceptional period, and by the Six Nations we&rsquo;ll be in the 90 per cent region of who we can pick from.&rdquo;<br /><br />World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson is also in the 22, with 10 members of Johnson&rsquo;s initial elite squad released to their clubs.<br /><br />SQUAD: Forwards: D Bell (Bath), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), J Crane (Leicester), T Croft (Leicester), L Deacon (Leicester), D Hartley (Northampton), J Haskell (Stade Francais), C Lawes (Northampton), L Moody (Leicester), T Payne (Wasps), S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath). Backs: M Banahan (Bath), D Care (Harlequins), M Cueto (Sale Sharks), A Erinle (Biarritz), S Geraghty (Northampton), A Goode (Brive), D Hipkiss (Leicester), P Hodgson (London Irish), U Monye (Harlequins), J Wilkinson (Toulon).