Johnson to take in Top 14 clash
October 2, 2009
Stade Francais flanker James Haskell will be one of those under the microscope in Paris on Friday night © Getty Images
Martin Johnson will make his first cross-Channel trip of the season on Friday to cast his eye over a host of Top 14-based players.
The England manager will join forwards coaches John Wells and Graham Rowntree in Paris to watch Stade Francais' Top 14 clash with Brive in a game that could feature up to five potential squad members.
Flanker James Haskell and lock Tom Palmer opted for a move to Stade Francais in the summer while Brive can boast centre Jamie Noon, fly-half Andy Goode and hooker Steve Thompson in their ranks. Although none of them are currently in the 32-man England Elite Player Squad, injuries and Johnson's presence on the continent suggests he is prepared to cast his net further ahead of his side's forthcoming clashes with Australia (November 7), Argentina (November 14) and New Zealand (November 21).
Johnson has previously relied on DVD coverage of England's Top 14-based players but was keen to take in a live game.
"It is a good chance to go and watch some of the guys and to watch two of the top French teams. You get a sense of what they are doing over there," said Johnson.
The trip to Paris may also help Johnson build a relationship with the new Stade Francais coaching team of Jacques Delmas and Didier Faugeron, who were brought in after Ewen McKenzie was sacked. Johnson and McKenzie had forged a close understanding over what they wanted from a player like Haskell, who has dropped out of the senior England squad.
Haskell believes his game has already improved since his move to France and he will be keen to prove it again tomorrow night with autumn internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand looming.
"When I came here I'd been dropped by England, I'd missed out on the Lions tour and my Wasps place was rickety," said Haskell. "I came here for a change and to become a new man. I'm loving it and I'm playing good rugby.
"The reason I came out here was that I wanted to let my rugby do the talking. I'd be disappointed if I get to the end of the season without playing for England."
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