Johnson keen to dampen expectations
November 11, 2008
Johnson comes up against an old foe in the shape of Australia this weekend © Getty Images
Martin Johnson will make sure his England new boys remain grounded ahead of Saturday's Cook Cup clash with Australia.
Debutant full-back Delon Armitage was named man of the match in England's 39-13 victory over the Pacific Islanders last weekend. Winger Ugo Monye and scrum-half Danny Care also captured the headlines as England hit the scratch Islanders team with pace and attacking zest.
But the Wallabies will be a different proposition altogether and Johnson, who will name his side later today, knows a major part of his role this week is in tempering expectations and outlining the new challenge ahead. It is a challenge Johnson knows well from his years as captain of Leicester, England and the Lions, but it differs as a coach and he is having to learn fast.
"I think it's great because the players are full of enthusiasm, they want to play, they want to learn," Johnson told last night's edition of Inside Sport on BBC1. "They want to go out and succeed and our job is to help them do that, help them find the way. "And when we have those bad moments which we do, it's keeping them confident. When we have good moments and everyone is saying how great they are, it's grabbing them back down."
England now face the three southern hemisphere giants on successive weekends at Twickenham, and if Johnson needed any statistics to back up his message, he need only look at the Tri-Nations results. All three teams beat each other during the course of the tournament. Saturday's opponents Australia beat the All Blacks once and South Africa twice, before the All Blacks eventually pipped them to the title with a dramatic 28-24 win in Brisbane.
"We are playing teams who are good enough to beat you even if you play pretty well," said Johnson. "How many games have New Zealand lost in the British Isles and Ireland in the last 20-30 years? It's not very many so you have to put things into perspective. But that's where we want to be, competing and beating those teams. You have to go and face it.
"At the end of this month, our guys will have been out there in four really tough Test matches and they'll know a little bit more about what it's all about."
Mathew Tait has returned to training after missing the victory over the Pacific Islanders with a hamstring injury and could come into contention for a place in the squad.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter