Johnson relishing Springbok showdown
November 26, 2010
England boss Martin Johnson is looking forward to Saturday's mouth-watering clash with the Springboks © Getty Images
England team manager Martin Johnson has admitted that he has struggled to control his excitement in the run-up to Saturday's Test against South Africa at Twickenham.
With a visit from the Springboks being precisely the kind of occasion that he relished as a player, the former World Cup winner has had to curb his enthusiasm for the benefit of his charges.
"I have tried not to talk too much this week because I get too excited. This is what you play for - there will be 80,000 at Twickenham and we are up against a good South Africa team," Johnson said.
"It is going to be a big, big game. It is a cracking game to be involved in whenever you play South Africa. It will be very physical, intense and a great Test match. Everyone is looking forward to a full-blooded Test match at Twickenham.
"I don't do this job for the money. To be involved with the England rugby team, you don't get any better than that. You want those days we have had at Twickenham in the last couple of weeks. The players recognise that. It is a hell of a thing to be involved with."
There is an air of expectancy among England fans on the back of South Africa's shock defeat by Scotland last weekend, with many believing that Johnson's troops are poised to produce a performance akin to the one which swept Australia aside a fortnight ago. However, Johnson is taking nothing for granted against the reigning world champions.
"We are desperate to play as well as we can. We want the England team to be a successful team that people can be proud of and we are on the right track," Johnson said. "We have an exciting team and I am not playing that down. This team is on an upwards curve and everything goes into tomorrow. But we are nowhere near where we can be. The whole thing has only come together this calendar year. We are still building. We have done nothing yet."
Indeed, Johnson was keen to point out that his is a side that is still in its infancy, still developing and still learning.
"South Africa have been successful because they have been pretty settled and a very good team and we haven't, for a while," Johnson said. "We have got to turn that first thing around and the results will follow. Teams have to take those steps, like beating Australia. We can talk about it but the players have to go and do it and really believe it."
England captain Lewis Moody, though, feels the players are primed to produce another impressive display.
"There is a similar feel to the week of the Australia game. There is the angst in the air, a nervous energy that I like to see in the squad," he said. "You know then that people are prepared and ready for the game."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup