England coach Martin Johnson has warned supporters he will not bow to pressure to play a more attractive style of rugby, and will instruct his side to ”kick the ball for 80 minutes” if necessary against Ireland at Twickenham next weekend – despite widespread public disapproval of the uninspiring Six Nations game against Italy in Rome last Sunday.
Robert Kitson, The Guardian
The England team manager has also rejected criticism of Jonny Wilkinson, and left his audience in little doubt that his fellow World Cup winner will be retained at five-eighth against the Irish.
He insisted Wilkinson had been unfairly targeted for England’s collective failure to play better against the Azzurri and, tellingly, has asked his back-up No.10, Toby Flood, to go back and play for Leicester this weekend.
Johnson has never hidden his belief that entertainment is a minor issue compared with the serious business of winning Test matches, and he is not about to change his opinion now.
”We’re doing these things because they’re effective, not because they’re entertaining,” he said. ”If we have to kick the ball for 80 minutes, we’ll do that. We should have no qualms when we do. The kicking is there to create opportunities. We’re not doing it because we can’t think of better things to do.
”Playing rugby isn’t about what people want to see: kicking is a big part of the match, and will be again next week. Let’s not pretend you’re going to go out and counter-attack off every kick. If they put together a good kick-chase, that’s suicide. We need to make smart decisions and play the game in front of us.”
England No.8 Nick Easter, who had described Sunday’s encounter as ”boring”, was also back on message on Thursday: ”Results are the most important thing. Whether you win by six penalties having put them under pressure or by three tries, it doesn’t really matter.”
Meanwhile, Paul Sackey has become the latest high-profile English player to move to France after signing a two-year contract with Toulon, the Top 14 club announced.
The second year of the winger’s contract would be triggered only if he made a certain number of starts in the first season, Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said
”His profile corresponds to the game plan we hope to put in place next year,” Boudjellal said.
Sackey, 30, who will join Toulon from London Wasps, has 22 Tests caps.