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Johnson back in charge as six survive knife for England A.

World Cup captain Martin Johnson will lead an England side showing nine changes for tomorrow's A international against Italy in L'Aquila.

Only wing Liam Botham, centre Ben Johnston, wing Spencer Brown, scrum-half Martyn Wood, prop David Flatman and flanker Angus Gardiner are retained from the line-up that beat Wales 14-9 in Bath a fortnight ago.

Leicester lock Johnson and his World Cup second-row partner Danny Grewcock have an opportunity to press selection claims ahead of England's Six Nations finale against Scotland on April 2.

Both have been sidelined through injury, Johnson suffering an Achilles problem and then concussion, while Saracens forward Grewcock underwent groin surgery in January.

Like Johnson, he has just returned to Premiership action.

Elsewhere in the pack, Bath hooker Andy Long takes over from his club colleague Mark Regan while Wasps prop Will Green replaces Julian White.

Regan and White are part of the senior England party in Rome this weekend.

They are joined by centre Will Greenwood, A team skipper for the narrow victory against the Welsh.

In the back-row, Bedford flanker Roy Winters earns a call-up instead of Paul Gustard, and Gloucester's Ed Pearce packs down at No 8 - Tony Diprose is the player to drop out.

Gloucester centre Joe Ewens fills Greenwood's midfield vacancy, with opportunities also handed to Kingsholm full-back Chris Catling and Saracens' utility man Mark Mapletoft, selected at fly-half. Botham, a try-scorer in the last two England A games, will look for plenty of ball against an Italian side which has still to open their account following defeats by Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

England A team to play Italy A in L'Aquila on Friday: C Catling (Gloucester); L Botham (Cardiff), B Johnston (Saracens), J Ewens (Gloucester), S Brown (Bristol); M Mapletoft (Saracens), M Wood (Wasps); D Flatman (Saracens), A Long (Bath), W Green (Wasps), M Johnson (Leicester, capt), D Grewcock (Saracens), R Winters (Bedford), A Gardiner (Bath), E Pearce (Gloucester). Replacements: C Fortey (Gloucester), M Cornwell (Gloucester), D Crompton (Bristol), P Gustard (Leicester), S Benton (Leeds), A Hepher (Northampton), M Denney (Wasps).
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Title Annotation:Rugby Union
Author:Baldock, Andrew
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 16, 2000
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