Hape had been a permanent fixture in the England team following his debut in Australia last summer until he sat out last week's 23-19 home win against Wales as part of a planned rotation policy.
Johnson has made 13 changes for the return match against Wales and Hape will start alongside captain Mike Tindall in what was England's first-choice centre partnership in the Six Nations.
The Tindall-Hape axis has been criticised for lacking the pace and invention required to make a mark at the World Cup - but Johnson disagrees.
"I think Shontayne brings a heck of a lot but a lot of people don't understand it," said the England manager.
"For a lot of last season he was probably our best defender. He gets you over the gainline and he's a very smart player.
"He doesn't do the one or two eye-catching things that people remember, he does 80 minutes of good solid work.
"He's very strong in that contact area, he wins collisions and we can play off that. Last week when we ran hard and won the contact area we looked dangerous.
"Shontayne can give us that - he's a very smart footballer with the ball in his hand.
"When you speak to opposition coaches, a lot of them rate him very, very highly so I will sit here and defend him all day."
With the exception of scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth and flanker Hendre Fourie, Johnson will field the side that secured England their first Six Nations title since 2003.
Chris Ashton rolled his ankle before training on Thursday but expects to be fit to link up in the back three with Ben Foden and Mark Cueto.
Johnson's 30-man World Cup squad plans are now crystallising.
Ugo Monye, Tim Payne and Paul Doran-Jones have all been released back to their respective clubs this weekend, the clearest possible indicator they will not be on the plane to New Zealand.
Joe Simpson and Chris Robshaw will also have played no part in either Wales game, suggesting they are considered back-up for the World Cup.
That leaves five others that Johnson has to cut before his World Cup squad is announced on August 22.
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