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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Busy week for Johnson as England look for positives

England manager Martin Johnson has plenty to work with when the players gather on Monday after a performance against Australia where the few chinks of light were overshadowed by amateurish thinking and poor execution.

England were beaten 28-14 on Saturday by a well-drilled Wallaby team who punished the hosts harshly for their misdemeanours by slotting seven of the eight kickable penalties they were offered.

Many of those offences were inexcusable and the former lock will no doubt read the riot act to ensure there is no repeat against world champions South Africa next week.

Johnson will, or should, also be worried about England's lack of power in the pack, a concept unthinkable when the World Cup-winning skipper was in the trenches himself.

Andrew Sheridan, who almost single-handedly destroyed the Australian scrum on his debut in 2005 and again in last year's World Cup quarter-final, made no impact on Saturday, while lock Steve Borthwick seems to be captain in name only after another failure in the "aura test."

Adding bite, menace and physicality are easier said than done but it is exactly that sort of leadership by example that Johnson, with no coaching experience, was brought in to provide.

What will be much tougher will be how he and his coaching team set about training the players to use the chances they do create, not a skill that can be passed on with a loud voice or stern look.

"We had the pace, there were lots of mismatches out there but we didn't see them or exploit them," Johnson said.

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