Johnson facing a big battle

ENGLAND great Lawrence Dallaglio has urged Martin Johnson not to be fixated with results as he prepares his team for an eagerly awaited first autumn international against New Zealand on Saturday.

Johnson has won just nine of his 21 matches as manager and pressure is growing on him to demonstrate an improvement with the World Cup, and the end of his current contract, just 12 months away. Four fixtures this month, which also include daunting visits from Australia and South Africa, look certain to provide an accurate reading of England’s current standing in world rugby.

But Dallaglio insists maintaining the intensity of their performance in the landmark 21-20 victory over Australia on their own turf in June is of greater importance for now than scorelines alone. “England want to win every single game but we’ve got to be realistic and remember that we’re playing the top three teams in the world, based on results from the last two years, over the next month,” the World Cup winner told City A.M.

“It would be lovely to win four out of four; it would be lovely to win three out of four, but realistically it’s going to be tough. The minimum requirement is we put ourselves in the position to win games with our performances.

“People get too focused on the World Cup. Yes it’s there but there’s a hell of a lot of rugby before then. We’re on a journey. For now it’s about four games, then the Six Nations, then the summer tour and then we can think about the World Cup.

“I think Martin Johnson knows more than anyone it’s a results-driven business. His last result was a notable one and he’ll be keen to show it was the start of things to come, not a flash in the pan. If England lose badly it doesn’t make us the worst team in the world; if we win these matches it doesn’t mean we’re world beaters.”

The All Blacks arrive as hot favourites, having won 15 successive Tests until last weekend’s late defeat to Australia. But Dallaglio (right) takes heart from England’s own most recent display.

“The team won its last game in Australia against a very strong Australia side. Many outstanding English players don’t have a win in Australia on their CV, Will Carling to name just one,” he said.

“Let’s make no mistake: we are pretty big underdogs. They are undoubtedly, by some distance, the best side in the world, regardless of what happened in Hong Kong. England face a big battle but won their last game, a hugely significant match in Australia. We cannot underestimate how much belief that will have given them.”

Lawrence Dallaglio is rugby ambassador for Greene King IPA, the Official Beer of England Rugby. Enjoy a proper pint of Greene King IPA at your nearest Official England Rugby Supporter Pub by visiting www.greenekingipa.co.uk

ANALYSIS | ENGLAND COACHES
Results from first 21 matches in charge:
C Woodward W9 D2 L10
A Robinson W9 D0 L12
M Johnson W9 D1 L11

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
Woodward went on to win World Cup
Robinson lost next game and was fired
Johnson faces match No22 on Saturday