RUGBY : Simon Shaw is in line to make his England return against New Zealand this weekend as the pressure begins to grow on Martin Johnson’s management team.
Simon Shaw is in line to make his England return against New Zealand this weekend as the pressure begins to grow on Martin Johnson’s management team.
England missed Shaw’s physical presence during their defeat to Australia and in Saturday’s insipid victory over Argentina as he completed his comeback from a nagging foot injury, but after the 36-year-old proved his fitness in Wasps’ LV= Cup victories over the last two weekends, Johnson wasted no time in recalling the veteran lock to his senior squad.
Shaw was one of the stars of this summer’s Lions tour to South Africa and he would bring vital experience and leadership to an England side that appears racked by fear and bereft of confidence.
The sight of some England players looking desperately towards the bench for directions as they struggled against Argentina smacked of an absence of decisive leadership.
England’s attacking game seemed robotic, sterile and predictable – a fact highlighted by both Australia captain Rocky Elsom and Argentina skipper Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe in recent weeks.
Johnson’s position as team manager has been guaranteed by Twickenham’s elite rugby director Rob Andrew until the 2011 World Cup but some tough questions are being asked about the rest of the coaching team.
There has been nothing this autumn to suggest that Brian Smith, who arrived with a great reputation for bold, attacking rugby carved out at London Irish, is being allowed to have enough influence on the side.
Compared to the ambitious rugby served up by Ireland and Australia in their 20-20 draw at Croke Park on Sunday, England looked as if they were playing a different sport.
It is understood that when England’s post-autumn review is undertaken, the forwards coach John Wells will find himself on particularly shaky ground.
Wells, who joined the England set-up under Andy Robinson in 2006, has been described by one insider as the most “stale” of the management team.