Johno’s Pic ‘n’ Mix

I bet Martin Johnson doesn’t go to Wilko’s for his pic ‘n’ mix. His superior and tried taste buds require a rather more exquisite flavour to sufficiently satisfy, I am sure. It may be assumed he enjoys the simplicity of Marks and Spencer’s Percy Pigs but, judging from the strategic and measured decisions he seems able to assert, I’m guessing his senses take him elsewhere for a sugary delight.

So, if the newly announced England team were a freshly sealed bag of sugared energy from a well-known market retailer, would Johno be on for a high?

I’d put a few bob on it.

Looking at the team announced yesterday, there’s enough oomph in this year’s squad to get anyone feeling giddy, without the intoxication courtesy of Candy King and with the players that graced the pitches of the last two World Cups, teamed with intense young talent, there’s a lot to savour.

It was sad to hear the news of Danny Care’s departure from the training squad last week. The 24-year-old scrum-half injured his toe during the World Cup warm up defeat to Wales which ruled him out of the running for a place in the final 30. A devastation for Care, but triumph for uncapped Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson who yesterday clinched a place in Johno’s elect as his replacement. Wild cards such as Simpson might be expected to stun crowds with extraordinary things but Simpson told the BBC: “I’m going to play first and foremost for the benefit of the team and make sure that we win matches, I’m not going to do anything off the cuff”. That’s what the management like to hear.

As anticipated, fly-half Toby Flood and veteran comrade Johnny Wilkinson will assume the number 10 shirt. With 127 caps between them and Johnny’s Six Nations 2011 ‘top points scorer’ accolade, England will be confident they’ll kick the crucial extra points. Kicking to touch for territory can be pivotal in close games too, so accuracy of the boot will be essential. Let’s hope Johnny’s still got a drop goal or two in him when it’s needed.

Moving forward, Johno has played it safe employing five hookers, three props and four locks, although there are only five players selected on the back row. He’ll be hoping the likes of Bath specialist Lewis Moody will be up to full fitness before the first crunch against Argentina on the 10th September. I personally enjoy watching Moody play, and have done since he first joined Leicester in 1996, it would be a shame to see him sit out yet again after his Six Nations suffering. Tom Croft and Nick Easter will be key players in the line up to keep possession and momentum whilst I’m happy to discover that James Haskell’s foot scare won’t deny him a start at open-side on Saturday against Ireland.

Steve Thompson’s selection as hooker doesn’t surprise as the most experienced in the number 2 shirt at international level and his 2003 team-mate Mike Tindall has still got it at outside centre.

So Martin Johnson’s Pic ‘n’ Mix choices are something to be admired. Hendre Fourie Foams would have been a pleasant addition, but you get much more out of Nick Easter eggs.

Simpson’s realised his strawberry dreams being mixed with Moody’s Mallow Mushrooms and James Haskell jellies. Ben Foden Fruits and Banahan Bananas, Hape Hearts, and Richard Wigglesworthers are also in the bag. They’re all sweet choices which come in a variety or flavours, textures, consistencies and sizes, let us hope and pray that at 7am in the morning in England they’ll taste good for breakfast.