Johnson demands to see Australia repeat

South Africa will punish any slackness and England boss wants a return to the standard his improving side set against Wallabies


ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson has told his England troops they’ll need to produce a performance of World Cup winning standard if they are to end their uplifting autumn campaign with a win over South Africa.

After giving a number of fringe players an outing last weekend against Samoa, Johnson has reverted to the team that pulverised Australia a fortnight ago for the challenge of toppling the world champions.

Despite victory over the Pacific Islanders, Johnson was disappointed with his side’s intensity levels and has warned his charges nothing but total commitment is acceptable against South Africa.

“Every Test is a cup final. There are no little Test matches,” said Johnson “Against Australia we took the lead and then kept our foot on the pedal. Last week our guys’ intensity was a few per cent off and they have to be able to raise that, whoever they are playing.

“It is balls-out from the start to the end. If you are smart, accurate and disciplined then you have a chance to win. That is what we need to get to.

“It is going to be a big, big game. It is a cracking game to be involved in whenever you play South Africa. You know what you are going to get in terms of intensity.

“We know we will have to play at a very high level. It will be very physical, intense and a great Test match.”

Lewis Moody returns to the openside as captain and Mike Tindall reclaims his place at outside centre from Matt Banahan after both senior players were rested for last week's win against Samoa. Leicester pair of flanker Tom Croft and tighthead prop Dan Cole also return.

Johnson (left) played down any suggestion that England are even close to being considered a finished article but he agreed his current squad had taken impressive strides.

He said: “I think our standards are certainly higher than they were six to eight months ago. Our expectations of each other are higher and as a team we are able tell each other ‘that needs to be better’.”

FORMER England scrum-half Kyran Bracken explains why matching the awesome physical power of the current world champions will be essential if England are to end their autumn campaign on a high note at Twickenham tomorrow.

This battle is not the most obvious but it’s important. Lawes is an enforcer and a ball carrier, but he’s young and in some ways punching above his weight. Botha started out a bit like him, and if Lawes ends up that good he’ll have done very well. The Springbok No4 is aggressive and has the edge in size and experience.

The day after you play South Africa you feel like you’ve been run over. When they attack, they really hurt. Mtawarira – ‘the Beast’ – can annihilate teams and win Tests on his own. The scrum wasn’t a big factor against Samoa but this time it’ll be a huge contest, and these two will be having their own fascinating tussle.

De Villiers and Steyn are big and strong – Flood will do well to avoid them; they’ll be out to break ribs – but Hape is skilful and has come into his own. He’s different, has tricky footwork; I’m glad England stuck with him. Tindall isn’t always popular but against the very best you need someone who’ll smash people.

VERDICT: South Africa are smarting and will be coming for England. They better be ready.

Kyran is hosting a drinks evening, supported by Geo F. Trumper, on 6 December themed ‘Managing Change’ where he will be in conversation with England captain Lewis Moody