4th March 2014
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With Saracens No.8 Billy Vunipola sidelined with a knee injury sustained in the recent win over Ireland, Lancaster will now have to make an enforced change to his back-row for the penultimate fixture in this season’s tournament.

Gloucester’s Ben Morgan is likely to get the nod from head coach Stuart Lancaster for the starting XV, but Johnson – who has five international caps to his name – could well fill the vacancy on the bench after some eye-catching performances for Exeter recently.

The 31-year-old Chiefs forward is likely to be involved in a straight shoot-out between himself and Gloucester’s Matt Kvesic for the back-row option against the Welsh, who themselves are in fine form following an impressive victory over France last time out.

Buoyed by Saturday’s 18-0 win over the Exiles, Johnson admitted in the aftermath of that success that performing for the Chiefs was essential if he was to have any hope of getting in the mix for England during their final two Six Nations games.

“I don’t really need much extra motivation to play for the Chiefs,” said Johnson. “If you can’t get motivated playing in front of your home crowd, then you shouldn’t really be playing rugby.

“The Exeter crowd have always been good to me and I am very happy with how things went. It was nice for the team to win and put in a half-decent performance. I will now put the country hat back on this week and see what happens.”

Johnson, along with fellow Chief Jack Nowell, were today both named in the England training squad ahead of this weekend’s tussle with the Welsh. Also added to the party were Leicester Tigers centre Manu Tuilagi and London Irish winger Marland Yarde, both of whom made their return to competitive action at the weekend folllowing lengthy injury lay-offs.

In what was a ‘must-win’ fixture for the Chiefs, Johnson led from the front as Rob Baxter’s side ended a five-game losing streak thanks to tries from centres Phil Dollman and Ian Whitten, plus eight points from the boot of young fly-half Henry Slade.

“There is a lot of relief, but also a little bit of frustration because we know we can do it, and today we put an 80-minute performance together,” Johnson said. “We were frustrated we left a couple of tries out on the pitch, but I think our performance was built on our defence. When you start getting pride in defending your own try line, good things will happen.”

Sale’s win at London Wasps means the Chiefs are still nine points adrift of the sixth-place Sharks, with six matches remaining, but they do still have to play Steve Diamond’s men at home.

“We need to go on one of our famous runs, and get a winning streak going and we are more than capable of doing that,” Johnson said.


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