Is Martin Johnson right not to gamble on youth yet with England?
时间：2019-07-20 责任编辑：龙氍 来源：葡京赌场娱乐 点击：195 次
sounded like Tony Soprano: "We live in a world now where – guy plays well in the Premiership, why isn't he in the England team?"
Johnson had been merry but this one question pierced his mood.
Australia 20 England 21, 19 June 2010. The one-point winning margin Johnson's team brought home from Sydney has acquired mythic potential. The England manager is too clever to think a drawn summer series against the Wallabies will strike fear into New Zealand, Australia, South Africa or even Samoa: England's opponents, starting on Saturday, in the last autumn series before next year's World Cup. But you can see why the king of darkness would seize on the progress implicit in that result to animate his side against the All Blacks next Saturday.
The reason questions on youth annoy him is that he swears this is an England side already energised by under-25s. The figures back him up.
Expectation lands most heavily this November on Ben Foden, 25, Chris Ashton, 23, Ben Youngs, 21, Dan Cole, 23, and Courtney Lawes, 21, of whom Johnson says: "Some people around this room said Courtney had to be incredibly patient about making his Test debut. He was 21 years old. So let's put it in context."
The Sydney victory – a really poor man's version of the 2003 World Cup win in the same stadium – offers Johnson at least some evidence with which to rebut the most persistent allegations, which are: 1. Twickenham has become a morgue. 2. England are robotic gym-victims who lack the basic athletic and ball skills to play expressive rugby. 3. The old guard are propping up an interchangeable generation of Premiership-reared youngsters who each take a turn and fail to establish themselves as heirs to the great 2003 side.
These denunciations are extreme, of course, but you do hear them in the Twickenham bars and among rugby's clubhouse hardcore. They stem most recently from the defeats by New Zealand and Australia this time last year and another mediocre Six Nations campaign that was only partially redeemed by the narrow 12-10 defeat by France, the grand-slam champions, in Paris.
Constructive losses are anathema to Johnson. He loathes the notion of defeat as a developmental step. Yet he concedes: "This time last year we were virtually starting again." There is no escaping the sense that he is having to do so again now, with a World Cup 12 months away. He will shield his men from this logic. To tell a 21-year-old he has one year to save the nation is to send him scampering for a cave. Unless he is Jonny Wilkinson, who is out with a shoulder injury, or Dan Carter, the unsurpassable All Black No10 and compatriot of Shontayne Hape, England's latest foreign-born punt, at inside-centre.
Here comes the proof. In the 19-6 defeat by New Zealand at HQ a year ago Johnson fielded (or was forced to field) the lumbering Matt Banahan on the wing, along with Ugo Monye, Ayoola Erinle, Paul Hodgson, Dan Hipkiss, Wilkinson and Steve Borthwick, among others who will be missing from Saturday's starting line-up.
This may be cruel to a selfless warrior who led a moderate England team 20 times but the country is finally, and mercifully, post-Borthwick and could even be post-Wilkinson if infirmity has returned to the kick-meister and Toby Flood can become first choice at stand-off. During the Borthwick years words were as formulaic and lifeless as the performances. There will be rejoicing across the shires if we never hear a captain speak again of "positives" and "platforms to build on".
Johnson mistrusts this language too. But he likes snap judgments even less.
Hence the prickliness when he is accused by implication of favouring ancient gargoyles. He says: "When I came in, let's look. The first team I played: Delon Armitage made his debut at full-back, Ugo Monye made his debut on the wing, Riki Flutey made his debut at No 12, Danny Cipriani started his second Test match at 10 and Danny Care started his second Test match at scrum-half. I haven't got a problem with playing guys who are good enough to play.
"The perception has been that when you're losing – and we saw this at the football World Cup – 'Chuck the kids in. Give them a go.' If you chuck them in and they fail, where are you then?
"How you manage them into the Test arena is important and I think we've done a good job of it. There are other issues you guys don't know about, physically, with some players, which means they're not quite ready for the rigours of Test rugby. We had six guys in Sydney [in June] who had made their starting debut for England that season.
"This time last year Youngs was in the 64 [development squad] if I remember rightly, Dan Cole was in the Saxons but injured, Courtney was on the radar but a Saxon. Youngsy probably wasn't nailed on to start at Leicester, Chris Ashton certainly wasn't, Courtney had probably started more with Northampton at six than second-row and Dan [Cole] was probably third-choice at Leicester. A large number of our squad are 25 and under. It's great. But I'm not going to chuck them in because everyone wants me to and they've done two nice things in the Premiership."
So it falls to Mike Tindall, Nick Easter and perhaps Lewis Moody to chaperone this new wave through the 12 months they have left to attain World Cup-challenging form. Three years of sifting and experimentation have taken England to this final trial. If the gleam in all these bright eyes is dimmed, there is no other light to turn to.