World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has told England to sharpen up and wants Maro Itoje to stop conceding so many dumb penalties.
“Maro’s the poster boy of penalties,’ said Johnson, who was speaking to the Mail Online.
“I was doing the England coaching job when he was coming through at Saracens. The guys there, like Paul Gustard, rated him very highly as a player and a leader.”
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Johnson continued: “He’s a very good player and he can be very effective at turning balls over, charging balls down. He’s just got to dial it back one degree and make sure he’s squeaky clean. Unless it’s 100 per cent on, he’s just got to leave it. It’s risk-reward.
“He’s got to realise that referee is looking at him particularly hard and he’s got to hold back a little bit.
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“If you keep getting penalised, do refs look at you a little bit harder? Yeah, they probably do,’ said Johnson, a Land Rover ambassador.
“England have been getting penalised consecutively at the start of games — and then the writing is on the wall. It’s been refereed on the stricter side and referees are looking for things.
“You’ve just got to choose when to go in and compete. It’s the hand in the cookie jar thing.”
Martin Johnson names his five ‘certainties’ for 2021 Lions squad
1. Owen Farrell (England)
“He’s been consistently excellent for England for a long time now, and I’m sure he will be up there in the thick of it.”