Lewis Moody will enjoy the proudest moment of his England career when he captains his country against France in Paris.
The Leicester flanker was given the honour after Steve Borthwick, who had captained England for 20 consecutive Test matches, was ruled out with a knee injury.
Borthwick aggravated a long-standing “wear and tear” problem in England’s 15-15 draw with Scotland last weekend and failed to recover, despite spending two days with his left leg in a brace.
Louis Deacon has replaced Borthwick in the second row while Stade Francais lock Tom Palmer, who last played for England in 2008, has been preferred to Courtney Lawes on the bench because of his lineout expertise.
Moody has limited captaincy experience with Leicester and the prospect of leading his country had not occurred to him until Borthwick’s injury proved to be worse than initially feared.
“You don’t get asked to captain your country very often. Without doubt it will be the proudest moment in my England career,” said Moody.
“To be asked under whatever circumstance to captain your country is a huge honour. What a day, it will be amazing.”
Moody has not always been obvious captaincy material. During the early years of his career his biggest failing was playing too much with his heart and not enough with his head.
Now 31, Moody is a smarter player. After 14 years at the top he believes he has gained enough knowledge and experience to be able to make the important calls when the pressure is on in the French capital.
But Moody remains a tearaway and he vowed that instinctive style would not change just because he is captain. The Mad Dog’s bite will remain fiercer than his bark.
“I think for me the most important part of being a captain is to play the game the way I do,” he said.
“It will not change me. I will just play the way I do. I will not talk more than I have done.
“If I need to say something I will do but there will be no Churchillian speeches.
“I have been part of this squad for a long time and you have a role as part of the leadership team to voice your opinion when needed. I voice my opinion anyway.
“If you play the game long enough you hope you can make the right decisions in those key situations. If you play long enough to get a feel for things and I have experienced players around me like Nick Easter and Mike Tindall.”
Moody was dropped to the bench for the Scotland game last week and now finds himself preparing to lead England out at the Stade de France.
“The coaches make the decisions and we as players have to go with it. I couldn’t be happier at the minute. Last week was different and we will find out what happens after this,” said Moody.
“But all I am bothered about is the game and doing everything I can to win it.”
Johnson admitted he could just as easily have chosen Easter or Tindall but he opted for Moody, a former team-mate for club and country, because of a “gut feel”.
The England manager said: “Lewis is an inspirational figure in the group and he will bring us that energy and dynamism.
“The good thing about captaincy now more than 18 months ago when I got the job is that there is a core group of leadership there. We could have chosen two or three guys.
“Lewis was a little bit surprised but he was happy to come and do it.
“The guys just want to play well and be successful. The good thing is there are no egos. Steve has no ego about being captain. It is all about the team and trying to win.
“If I thought anyone wanted to be captain for the wrong reasons, they wouldn’t be captain. We thought he (Moody) was a good call for this week.”
Deacon was one of England’s better performers at Murrayfield last weekend and Johnson had no hesitation in promoting the Leicester lock back into the start line-up.
“Whenever you lose your captain and a big influence on the team and on the line-out, it is a blow, but it was a harsh call leaving Lewis on the bench in the first place,” he said.
Johnson would not confirm the exact nature of Borthwick’s injury and it will not be until next week that anyone can be clear how bad the damage is to the knee.
“It is one of those things which could be a long-term thing or it could be over very quickly,” said Johnson.
“It is frustrating for him that he is missing the game and he can’t get a black and white (decision) but that’s the human body.”
England left for Paris on Friday with Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie, Bath winger Matt Banahan and Bath prop David Flatman as back-up.
London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage had been due to travel but withdrew with a shoulder problem.