Johnson: Victory comes before entertainment
February 11, 2011
England manager Martin Johnson has tempered expectations © Getty Images
Martin Johnson insists it will be a case of substance over style as England hunt a crucial victory against Italy in Saturday's Six Nations showdown at Twickenham.
England launched their campaign with an impressive 26-19 victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium and expectations will be high that they can put in a dominating performance in front of their home fans.
But Italy have proven in recent years - and, more pertinently, in last weekend's narrow 13-11 defeat to Ireland - that they are an increasingly difficult nut to crack and Johnson said he is "under no illusions" as to the size of the challenge ahead.
"A win is always number one. That is the healthiest mindset. If you start thinking of unrealistic expectations you will be in trouble," said Johnson, who has named an unchanged team to face the Azzurri.
"Our number one priority is to win. Number two is we don't have any serious injuries and number three is that it is an exciting Test match. If you go in with that attitude to any game you are in the right place. If you start thinking what it looks like, then you are in trouble.
"We are here to win Test matches, make no bones about it. We have exciting players all over the field who can score and create damage and we want to use them - but to do that you have to win the battle.
"If Italy come and play their best game and they are tough and their defence is strong, we will be in a game into the last quarter like we were last week. I have no doubts about that. They don't concede a lot of points, they are difficult at the breakdown. We are under no illusions."
England allowed their performances to dip after November's record victory over Australia. They did enough to beat Samoa but ended the series with a defeat to South Africa. And Johnson warned England cannot make that same mistake again.
"This may not be perceived to be the biggest Test match of the week but, from our point of view, Italy are the only team that can beat us," Johnson said.
"The biggest fundamental of all these matches are that we have to have more energy, more enthusiasm, more speed around the field than these guys. We have to create that buzz. We have to bring the juice whatever game we play and I think the players understand that."
Johnson's decision to leave his starting line-up intact means a Twickenham debut for the Northampton flanker Tom Wood, who made such an impressive introduction to Test rugby last week. The sole change to the England's 22-man squad sees Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie replace Joe Worsley on the bench after shaking a calf injury.
"We thought Hendre was best coming off the bench and he will have a big impact when he comes on. I think his game has really improved and expanded," said Johnson. "The other guys played well and they deserve to start again."
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