Sunday 21 January 2018

Johnson upbeat over England progress

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson is confident England head into the RBS 6 Nations with the strongest squad he has been able to select during an often-troubled 18-month reign.

Delon Armitage, Riki Flutey and Toby Flood have all recovered from injury, while Johnson has promoted exciting youngsters Courtney Lawes, Dan Cole, Matt Mullan and Ben Foden into the squad.

"The next World Cup is 18 months away and we are building a good squad," said Johnson. "We are starting to add a bit of depth to our group, more than ever before. There is competition throughout and that is what you need. This is the best squad we have had in my time being in charge and it will only get stronger."

And with a better squad available to him, Johnson believes England are also developing a group of senior players that is so vital to any team's success on the international stage.

When England received six yellow cards in the opening three games of last year's Six Nations they appeared a rudderless ship, with Steve Borthwick struggling to install discipline in the team.

Johnson has stuck by Borthwick as captain - at least for now - but he also believes there is a group of at least three players who could justifiably captain England.

When Johnson led England to World Cup glory, his on-field lieutenants were Lawrence Dallaglio, Neil Back, Matt Dawson and Jonny Wilkinson.

He added: "We have a good leadership group and it's the strength of any side that you have three, four or five guys who could be captain. With guys like Jonny Wilkinson, Lewis Moody, Nick Easter and Simon Shaw we are starting to have a core group of leaders.

"The captaincy is an important role and Steve sets a great example for us - but in any successful team there has been a group that take the leadership responsibility.

"We need a team that can survive losing any player. We have a better leadership group around Steve than we have had in my time."

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