Martin Johnson issues challenge to England youngsters
Wednesday 03 November 2010
England manager Martin Johnson has urged his young guns to feed off the excitement of facing New Zealand and not be overawed by the All Black aura.
A third of England's starting XV have never played a Test at Twickenham - Ben Youngs, Courtney Lawes, Shontayne Hape, Ben Foden and Chris Ashton.
And only captain Lewis Moody and wing Mark Cueto remain from the England team that started last November's 19-6 defeat to New Zealand.
Since then, the All Blacks have been crowned Tri-Nations champions after sweeping through the competition unbeaten and they arrive at Twickenham as the world's number one side.
Johnson said: "There probably is an aura there but when you get into the analysis, they're a rugby team.
"Of course when you face the haka and see the black shirt there is a buzz - but you can't be inhibited by that. You've got to respect it but not be too respectful.
"We can't be headless because they'll pick us off. The defeat to Australia in Hong Kong won't damage the All Blacks' self-belief. You don't lose that sort of thing overnight."
Statistics released by the International Rugby Board this week showed the number of tries scored in the 2010 Tri-Nations increased by 100%, with an average of 5.8 per match.
Even in defeat to the Wallabies last weekend they scored three tries and 24 points.
But England's defence coach Mike Ford dismissed many of the Tri-Nations games as not being real Test rugby - and he warned the All Blacks to be prepared for an "old-fashioned" showdown at Twickenham.
England are not interested in "exciting" rugby, with Ford drilling his players to stifle the All Blacks' creative threat at source.
"There were three games in the Tri-Nations that produced an average of 77 points and that for me isn't Test rugby," said Ford.
"Even Saturday, which was a fantastic game, there were still 50 points scored.
"Everyone is talking about how many tries are going to be scored, how quick the rucks are and how exciting it is - but our job defensively is to work out a way to stop that.
"We're pretty confident that we can do that. Our mentality has changed defensively. We have a 'no excuse' mentality. It's never a case of us saying: 'They've just scored one so we'll go back and score one at the other end'.
"We want to make this a good, old-fashioned Test rugby game. When the players keep hearing about how exciting it is, deep down they will be putting the shutters up.
"They know that on Saturday, when we haven't got the ball we are going to endeavour to produce one of the best defensive performances ever."
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