Johnno slams Wilko critics

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson last night hit back at critics of Jonny Wilkinson, insisting the record-breaking fly-half is being made a scapegoat for side’s inconsistent form.

Wilkinson came under fire after missing three penalties in England’s nervy Six Nations win over Italy on Sunday, with some suggesting Toby Flood should take over for next weekend’s clash with Ireland.

Former scrum-half Matt Dawson – a former England team-mate of both Johnson and Wilkinson – led the criticism, claiming the Toulon No10 is being exposed by having inexperienced players around him.

In his newspaper column, Dawson wrote: “Jonny needs players around him, guys like Mike Catt, Will Greenwood, myself or Kyran Bracken, to take decisions, then he will execute them brilliantly.”

But Johnson dismissed the claims, accusing the critics of having an agenda against the star veteran. “I don’t agree [with the critics],” Johnson said. “Jonny missed a few kicks and suddenly everybody is calling for his head.

“Is it Jonny’s fault we didn’t convert line breaks? No, it’s a team thing.

“It has become the vogue to have a pop at Jonny. It is not always right or fair and I think some people are using it for their own agenda, but that is the world we live in.”

That said, Johnson did acknowledge the need for better communication in the midfield – pointing mainly to inside centre Riki Flutey and scrum-half Danny Care. “We are not playing in isolation out there and that is something we will stress,” he added.

“Danny Care is improving all the time in that position and Riki was back for his first game in six months. We can only get better there.”