Johnson in Wallaby warning

DEFIANT Martin Johnson last night fired a warning to Australia, insisting his England side to tour Down Under this summer is the strongest since he lifted the World Cup on their shores in 2003.

Team manager Johnson has selected no fewer than nine uncapped players in a strong 44-man squad as he prepares for the southern hemisphere showdowns against the Wallabies and New Zealand.

Lewis Moody is expected to stand in as captain for the for injured Steve Borthwick, while Johnson is also without the likes of Louis Deacon, Phil Vickery, Andrew Sheridan, Riki Flutey and Tom Rees for the five-match tour.

He has, however, handed recalls to Bath duo Olly Barkley and David Flatman, Sale fly-half Charlie Hodgson and Harlequins wing David Strettle after all enjoyed impressive Premiership seasons.

South African-born Leeds flanker Hendre Foure and former New Zealand rugby league international Shontayne Hape join the list of uncapped players. Wasps quartet Dan Ward-Smith, Dominic Waldouck, Joe Simpson and Dan Webber, plus Gloucester’s David Attwood, Leicester’s Geoff Parling and Jon Golding, of Newcastle, are the others.

Johnson raved: “It’s probably the strongest squad we have taken down there since 2003-04 in terms of depth.

“We want to give guys a chance to play in a tough environment. It will be tough on and off the field in many regards. England versus Australia at any sport has always got an edge for us.

“The guys are looking forward to the tour more than any I can remember. The tour is the start of the build-up to 2011 in terms of selection.”

Arguably, the biggest casualty is London Irish’s Paul Hodgson, who has fallen down the pecking order at scrum-half, while Wasps’ Danny Cipriani was not considered for selection due to his imminent move to Australia, to play for the Melbourne Rebels.

S Armitage (London Irish),
D Attwood (Gloucester),
D Cole (Leicester),
T Croft (Leicester),
P Doran-Jones (Gloucester),
N Easter (Harlequins),
D Flatman (Bath),
H Fourie (Leeds Carnegie),
J Golding (Newcastle),
D Hartley (Northampton),
J Haskell (Stade Francais),
C Lawes (Northampton),
L Mears (Bath),
L Moody (Leicester),
T Palmer (Stade Francais),
G Parling (Leicester),
T Payne (Wasps),
C Robshaw (Harlequins),
S Shaw (Wasps),
S Thompson (Brive),
D Ward-Smith (Wasps),
R Webber (Wasps),
D Wilson (Bath),
J Worsley (Wasps).

D Armitage (London Irish),
C Ashton (Northampton),
M Banahan (Bath),
O Barkley (Bath),
D Care (Harlequins),
M Cueto (Sale Sharks),
T Flood (Leicester),
B Foden (Northampton),
S Geraghty (Northampton),
S Hape (Bath),
C Hodgson (Sale Sharks),
U Monye (Harlequins),
J Simpson (Wasps),
D Strettle (Harlequins),
M Tait (Sale Sharks),
M Tindall (Gloucester),
D Waldouck (Wasps),
R Wigglesworth (Sale Sharks),
J Wilkinson (Toulon),
B Youngs (Leicester).