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.

England boss Martin Johnson annoyed by loss to Maori, England v Samoa rugby

Manager Martin Johnson was left frustrated as his midweek side ended England’s five-match summer tour with a 35-28 defeat by the New Zealand Maori.

“It rankles losing that game because there was a definite chance to win it,” said Johnson. “I am a bit grumpy.

“There are so many good things to come out of this tour, it was a bit annoying not to finish it off. But ultimately they probably deserved it.

England led 13-0 inside the first 10 minutes after an early Steffon Armitage try before falling 17-13 behind, but responded with tries from Danny Care and Chris Ashton to take a 28-17 lead at half-time.

But the tourists failed to score in the second period as Hosea Gear completed a sensational hat-trick of tries for the Maori to celebrate their centenary in style.

“It’s disappointing,” Johnson admitted. “These guys have improved game on game and in the first half they did very well.

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“But we were not aware enough when they went the length of the field to score [their first try] and we lost a bit of composure in the second half. They were more dangerous in attack and we struggled to convert pressure into points – that really cost us.

“We didn’t handle their runners at the start of the second half, and if you concede four tries, you are probably going to lose.

“We probably kicked away too much ball in the second half when we could have backed ourselves a bit more.”

Despite his disappointment at Wednesday’s defeat, Johnson was satisfied with an overall tour record showing two wins, one draw and two defeats from five matches.

“If you look at the results we have done OK but the effect of the tour on the team and the wider squad has been absolutely fantastic,” added Johnson, who now has more contenders for a revamped elite squad to be announced next month.

“A few people doubted whether it was a good idea to take these midweek games and this extra one [against the Maori] after a two-Test series and a long season.

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“But the midweek guys have kept their end up and done a fantastic job. Some guys have really put themselves in contention for the bigger squad.”

As well as youngsters such as Ben Youngs, Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Dan Cole and Courtney Lawes forcibly asserting their Test credentials, Johnson also took heart from the contributions of others to the second-string side.

Charlie Hodgson “controlled the game” and “showed a lot of maturity,” noted Johnson, who also singled out Dan Ward-Smith, Phil Dowson, Chris Robshaw, Dave Attwood, Geoff Parling, Brad Barritt and David Strettle as others who have pressed their claims. Corporate Hospitality Group provides England V Samoa Hospitality with best prices.