Fylde Rugby Club have hailed the decision by the England Counties’ management to name fly-half Chris Johnson as captain for the clash with the France Federale XV at Nevers on Friday night.
Mark Nelson, the Fylde coach, said: “That’s great news. I know Chris will do a really good job.”
Johnson takes over the captaincy from Wharfedale number eight Rob Baldwin, who will miss the trip to France after being suspended for one week by a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel for receiving three yellow cards for foul play during the season.
Johnson previously captained England Counties in one of their matches on last summer’s tour to Belgium, when he became the first Fylde player since Bill Beaumont to lead his country at international level.
Johnson’s team-mate Chris Briers plays on the wing.
England have named six new caps in their starting line-up.
Coventry’s former Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints centre Luke Myring will make his Counties debut alongside Darlington Mowden Park wing Cameron Mitchell with Exmouth’s former Exeter Chiefs, Bristol and Harlequins scrum-half Richard Bolt also winning his first cap.
In the pack tight-head prop Matt Shields and number eight Gavin Jones, who were both called into the squad earlier this week, will make their debuts along with Henley Hawks’ openside flanker Rob Stapley.
There are also six potential new caps among the replacements where only Matt Heeks of Rosslyn Park and Sean Taylor of Preston Grasshoppers have played for England Counties before.
Fylde fly-half Chris Johnson will captain the side having taken over from Wharfedale number eight Rob Baldwin who is suspended having accumulated three yellow cards for foul play during this season.
England Counties XV v. France Federale XV
Jim Wigglesworth (Cambridge); Chris Briers (Fylde), Jack Adams (Cinderford), Luke Myring (Coventry), Cameron Mitchell (Darlington Mowden Park); Chris Johnson (Fylde – captain), Richard Bolt (Exmouth); Robbie Kalbraier (Blaydon), Brett McNamee (Old Albanians), Matt Shields (Tynedale), Chris Wearmouth (Blaydon), Ben Hilton (Launceston), Tom Stradwick (Blackheath), Rob Stapley (Henley), Gavin Jones (Blaydon). Replacements: 1Johnny Matthews (Sedgley Park), Jamal Ford-Robinson (Cambridge), Bertie Haskins (Blackheath), Pierce Phillips (Darlington Mowden Park), Mark McCraith (Bishop’s Stortford), Matt Heeks (Rosslyn Park), Kiba Richards (Worthing), Sean Taylor (Preston Grasshoppers).