Johnno: we must match South Africa

We spoke to Martin Johnson at Twickenham yesterday, where the England elite player squad had gathered, and he spoke of England’s ambition to match the standard of rugby currently being set by South Africa.

Martin Johnson

Johnno spoke of the intensity of the Springboks’ gameplan during the Lions series and their three Tri-Nations encounters so far this summer.

“South Africa have their noses ahead at the moment. They are playing effective and efficient rugby, and we have to match that. They are extremely physical, and they take their chances when they come.”

The boot of Morne Steyn has been something of a revelation for South Africa, and his ability to score three points from almost anywhere in the opposition half, leaves Johnno yearning for the return to fitness of Jonny Wilkinson, who was training with the squad at Twickenham this week.

The England boss was optimistic about the coming season for England. “If you look at where we were this time last year, we’ve come a long way. Last year, everything was new and we were finding our feet, but now we have a lot more experience.”

“Look at Ugo Monye – he was in the Saxons last summer and now he’s played Test rugby for the British and Irish Lions. Tom Croft, what a season he has had. Riki Flutey, Delon Armitage – these guys are now experienced players, whereas last year they were new to the setup.”

Johnno also explained how he has been building relationships with the French clubs, where several of his players are now based. He has built bridges with Brive, who last year refused to release Andy Goode for an extra week’s training, and has been in contact with Stade Francais about James Haskell.

The England legend isn’t one to show how excited he is, but I’m convinced that there was a twinkle in his eye about the prospect of the new season. England face Australia, Argentina and New Zealand this Autumn, and the progress of the team will be fascinating to watch. None of those games will be easy, but they are all winnable, and the nation’s fingers are crossed that Johnno’s men can get somewhere near the standard set by the World Champions.

There will be more from Johnno, as well as other England stars like Mike Tindall and Dan Hipkiss, in the next edition of The Rugby Blog podcast, due to be published at the end of this month.

3 thoughts on “Johnno: we must match South Africa

  1. There is no way New Zealand will loose to England at the end of the year. If Springboks win the Tri Nations, the kiwi’s will be pissed as all hell. When was the last time England beat New Zealand?

  2. “Noses ahead”? The boks are several furlongs ahead of anyone in the NH right now. Sherwyn, if the AB’s don’t improve (unlikely) and England have a good day, we may keep your winning margin down to single digits.

    Johnno’s got a big year ahead of him. I hope he heeds his own words about the impact international rugby can have on players, and gives some of our young talent meaningful game time. My worry is that he will be too focused on the short term (given that his position will become tenuous if we don’t have a good 6N) at the expense of long term development of the players that can be a part of 2011 RWC. I’d rather lose a few games but grow some key young players than grind out results with Dad’s Army.

  3. The last time England beat New Zealand was back in 2003 – in the Kiwi’s backyard. Depending on a few factors i.e. if New Zealand actually start finding some kind of form, if England can carry on building our “new team”, if Johnno finally gives in and gives us a new captain (and leadership), I think the score line will be a lot closer than most are expecting, with England possibly pipping the win. New Zealand have been very unimpressive over the last 9 months (roughly) where England did start to build a little momentum (granted it was very slow and quite often stop, start, stop, start), however Englands biggest problems at the moment are lack of good options in front row and second row. As for front row, it picks itself at the moment. This particially because they are the best we have, but also because we have a lack of options. Davy Wilson is a really good young player, but is unfortunately very injury prone. Tim Payne is good, but not good enough to compete with most of the worlds competition. Juilan White looks past it. Dylan Hartley needs to curb his childish antics, but otherwise covers hooker well. Second row is even worse. Steve Borthwick is too much of a gentle giant and he leads the same way – time for a new team, new captain, new leadership. Simon Shaw is amazing, but at 36, how long can he really keep going? Ben Kay has found form again, but at 35, how long will it last? Louis Deacon is good, but again, not good enough to compete against the rest of the world. Nick Kennedy is by far the best second row we have, but has been reduced to the saxons – hoping there is actually a reason behind this and not just that he is out of favour?

    Depending on injuries and if players don’t lose form, this would be my team (with the players available)

    1. Sheridan
    2. Mears
    3. Vickery
    4. Borthwick
    5. Shaw
    6. Croft
    7. Rees (c)
    8. Crane
    9. Ellis
    10. Wilkinson
    11. Banahan
    12. Flutey
    13. Hipkiss
    14. Monye
    15. Armitage

    16. Hartley
    17. Wilson
    18. Payne
    19. Armitage
    20. Care
    21. Flood
    22. Tait

    Now I know your probably thinking, this bloody idiot has pick 3 front row’s for the subs. Well here’s the reason. Vickery cannot do 80 mins anymore, so one is definitely going on at around 60 mins in. That then means we have to hope and pray nothing happens to Sheridan, otherwise we’re down to uncontested scrums and I hate those. Plus scrums are usually one of our more dominate areas of the game. Did here someone suggest the subs bench to made to 8, with the condition that you have an entire front row replacement on it. Great idea. You’ve probably also noticed that there is no second row replacement on the bench – thats because both Croft and Crane can cover it if needs be, with Armitage then coming into the back row.

    As for the rest of my team, its full of old guard knowledge and experience, young talent, raw power and fantastic leadership. Pretty sure it would be a good combination

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