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Martin Johnson: Consistency key for England, with Wales ‘not far away’

Martin Johnson believes finding consistency of performance is key for England as they aim to keep their Six Nations hopes alive against a Wales team he feels are “not that far away” despite back-to-back defeats.

England welcome Wales to Twickenham on Saturday knowing they cannot afford to suffer their second loss of the tournament, with unbeaten France taking on Scotland at Murrayfield on Sunday.

Eddie Jones’ men have recovered from a disappointing opening defeat to France with successive victories over Scotland and Ireland.

The 2019 World Cup finalists were vastly improved against Ireland and led 17-0 at half-time before closing out a 24-12 win.

A similar showing will likely be required against Wales, whose results do not necessarily reflect their performances, according to England’s 2003 World Cup-winning captain and former head coach.

“I think the big thing for England as a team is just that consistency of performance,” Land Rover ambassador Johnson told Stats Perform.

“That was Eddie’s statement at the start of the tournament, the best teams when you look back over history they didn’t play that badly.

“They might have got beaten but they didn’t beat themselves, they were very, very difficult to beat. To beat them you had to play bloody well. There’s no-one quite like that in the tournament at the moment.”

As for Wales, who nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback from 27-16 down in their 27-24 loss to France last time out, Johnson said: “Wales played to the last second, on another day they come back and win that game, which I thought they still would do with about 20 minutes to go.

“They’re not that far away, in saying that they’ve got a couple of defeats. When you saw the sort of cold stats of them losing to Ireland you thought, ‘Wow that’s a bit of a hiding’, but it wasn’t really, they didn’t play that badly, they had their opportunities.

“It’s pretty close, that’s the good thing about the tournament, it’s pretty tight and you’ve just got to go and win your games. Hopefully England-Wales is a classic, I hope it’s a classic really ferocious, energetic, fast game and both teams really get into it and there’s a good ebb and flow of the game, scores from both teams and ultimately England win.

“If Wales can win it, it can put their second half of a tournament in a better perspective. A win at Twickenham for anyone is a good victory and England will be desperate not to lose at home and to win the game because they’ve still got a sniff of the title if Scotland can do everyone a favour.”

Wales fly-half Dan Biggar is expected to be fit to face England despite suffering a knee injury while playing for Northampton Saints against Saracens.

However, Wayne Pivac’s men are without wing Josh Adams for the rest of tournament because of an ankle injury.

Wales will be looking to avoid a third straight defeat and, asked if they can be considered vulnerable, Johnson said: “It depends how they react to it [the defeat against France]. If they come out at Twickenham thinking, ‘We’ve got players injured and we’re this and we’re that and we can’t win the title’, then you’ll probably get beat.

“If you go out thinking, ‘We’ve got 15, they’ve got 15, let’s put them under pressure’, then you’ll have a chance. It’s all about how they approach it, what their attitude is to it.

“The same with England. England have got to come out with the same intent they did against Ireland and put them away. If you get ahead at home, it is difficult for away sides to come back.

“From a neutral’s point of view, you probably want England to go ahead early and make a game of it. The joy of people being inconsistent is that you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Martin Johnson is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover has been helping rugby fans discover the sport for over twenty years. Visit LandRover.co.uk

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