Paul Ackford: Martin Johnson’s elite squad selection is a strange mix

Andy Robinson, now so coherent and comfy with Scotland, was bamboozled by the multiplicity of alternative obtainable to him when he was leading England. Brian Ashton had numerous aberrations about the alleged skills of rugby league converts.

A few game titles ago Steve Borthwick was Johnson’s captain and premier lock. So meshed have been skipper and manager that the relationship grew to become a metaphor for the pair’s obstinacy in the deal with of mounting criticism more than a series of indifferent performances.

Now Borthwick is toast, shunted aside, together with his partner Louis Deacon, for the rising Attwood and Courtney Lawes, and for the rehabilitated Tom Palmer.

It is genuine to see this in 1 of two methods. The benign stance is to credit score Johnson with coming to the get together at final, to praise his new danger-administration coverage with regards to his 2nd rows, in which he has promoted youth and vitality, buttressed by the ageing Shaw.

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Or, it is achievable to take yet another route. To conclude that partnering Deacon and Borthwick for as prolonged as Johnson did was a colossal error, proof that he is a inadequate selector, and that the new youngsters on the block, even so feisty and capable, will not now get adequate Exam matches forward of the Planet Cup wherever encounter is king.


That problem informs most of the relaxation of Johnson’s choices. Why persist with Ugo Monye for 4 of this season’s Six Nations matches then go away him out of the present squad for David Strettle, who barely set the planet alight in Australia, and Matt Banahan, whose rugby is so laboured and cumbersome out on the wing that he would be greater returning to the second row place he began out. Acquire on-line Autumn Internationals Hospitality Packages with the very best prices readily available! Company Hospitality Group covering in Autumn Internationals 2010 Hospitality and Tickets.

These are just some of the causes why it is tough to get too upbeat about the most recent England grouping. Genuine, there are some wonderful prospects in the mix.

Dan Cole has currently produced into a Exam prop of substantial merit, Ben Foden and Chris Ashton are two prongs of a back a few which will difficulty teams, Attwood and Lawes have frame of mind, and Ben Youngs could be the ideal of the lot.

And Johnson ought to be offered credit for unearthing that bunch, even if it did take far also long to give them a proper run. But there are also loads of curiosities, the blossoming or otherwise of whose careers above the coming months and matches, will establish no matter whether Johnson is aware what he is carrying out.

Just take James Haskell. The lad is physically identikit excellent, muscular tissues bulging on muscle tissue, each and every inch a shining case in point of health club tradition at its most committed and sophisticated. Haskell now has 28 caps and has began 12 of Johnson’s 21-gaming regime.

If at any time a player must stand for progress underneath Johnson, Haskell is that gentleman, but he continues to be as scatterbrained, as bereft of game-conduite abilities as actually.

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No doubt this is a disappointment to Johnson and his coaches as nicely as Haskell himself. It most definitely is to those of us who are searching for sustained and regular improvement in the Johnson era.

Foden, Ashton and the relaxation may possibly just be the men to get England to a spot exactly where they perform with conviction and accuracy at residence and absent.

But with a midfield nonetheless to type with an over-reliance on Shaw and Tindall with men like Haskell, Armitage and Riki Flutey nevertheless to maintain their contributions, there is some way to go prior to Johnson can categorically state that he is a gifted selector.