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Page last updated at 13:02 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Johnson targets England revival

By Peter Shuttleworth
BBC Sport at the RBS Six Nations launch

England coach Martin Johnson with captain Steve Borthwick
Johnson is preparing for his first Six Nations campaign as England manager

Martin Johnson says England will have to put their disastrous autumn campaign behind them if they are to end their long wait for an RBS Six Nations title.

England have not topped the table since winning the 2003, and hopes are not high after three heavy defeats against the Tri-Nations sides in November.

"Of course six years is too long, but we can only affect now," said the England boss.

"We need confidence and momentum after three losses in the autumn."

England, who kick-off this year's Six Nations campaign against Italy on 7 February, were thrashed by South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in November, suffering record home defeats by both the Springboks and the All Blacks.

Johnson's 32-man squad is sprinkled with international rookies like London Irish flanker Steffon Armitage and Northampton full-back or scrum-half Ben Foden, while the likes of scrum-half Danny Care, winger Ugo Monye and centre Riki Flutey are still inexperienced at Test level.

"It doesn't mean right now we can't perform at a a level despite having younger guys in," said Johnson.

"In the autumn we gave away points too easily and made it too easy for teams to score against us. We didn't create chances at times and when we did, we didn't take those chances.

"We must get out there and perform to gain some confidence and move on.

"We felt as coaches and management we could have done a better job in the autumn and there's no excuses for not playing as well as you can do.

"We have to start the tournament well and there will be expectation to win against Italy at home.

England captain Steve Borthwick
We must develop very, very quickly but we will all benefit from the experience of the autumn

England captain Steve Borthwick
"This championship should be a very important phase of this team's development."

England captain Steve Borthwick believes his team-mates need to learn lessons from their autumn of discontent if they are to live up to expectations in the tournament.

"We found out a lot about each other," said Borthwick.

"There were a lot of newcomers and Test debuts. It will be a great experience to watch the team grow.

"To develop the partnerships and the way we play as a team, takes time. We must develop very, very quickly but we will all benefit from the experience of the autumn."

But Johnson added: "People's reaction if you lose is over-critical and if you win, it is probably the other way.

"We know, however, we know we didn't do a good enough job as a team in the autumn and we've got to improve.

"If you use Danny Care as an example - it is his first year of club rugby, let alone Test rugby so the learning curve is pretty steep at the moment.

"But they are all getting all the opportunities they need to improve."

England are joint-third favourites with the bookmakers to win the 2009 Six Nations title and Johnson conceded that defending champions Wales probably deserved to start at the head of the betting.

Revised England elite player squad (29):
Forwards: Tim Payne (Wasps), Andrew Sheridan (Sale), Phil Vickery (Wasps), Julian White (Leicester), George Chuter (Leicester), Dylan Hartley (Northampton), Lee Mears (Bath), Steve Borthwick (Saracens), Tom Palmer (Wasps), Simon Shaw (Wasps), Steffon Armitage (London Irish), Tom Croft (Leicester), James Haskell (Wasps), Tom Rees (Wasps), Nick Easter (Harlequins), Luke Narraway (Gloucester).

* Also training with the senior squad: Ben Kay (Leicester), Michael Lipman (Bath), Joe Worsley (Wasps).

Backs: Olly Morgan (Gloucester), Mark Cueto (Sale), Paul Sackey (Wasps), Ugo Monye (Harlequins), Jamie Noon (Newcastle), Mike Tindall (Gloucester), Riki Flutey (Wasps), Shane Geraghty (London Irish), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Toby Flood (Leicester), Danny Care (Harlequins), Harry Ellis (Leicester), Ben Foden (Northampton).

* Also training with senior squad: Matt Banahan (Bath).

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see also
Six Nations guide 2009
28 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Trio released from England squad
27 Jan 09 |  English
Armitage replaces injured Moody
26 Jan 09 |  English
Injured Moody out of Six Nations
23 Jan 09 |  English
Sibling rivalry spurs Armitage on
21 Jan 09 |  London Irish
Armitage tips brother for England
15 Jan 09 |  London Irish
Rees Six Nations blow for England
06 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union
Foden & Morgan get England calls
14 Jan 09 |  English
Honeymoon over for Johnson
23 Nov 08 |  English
Johnson rues England indiscipline
29 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
RFU confirms Johnson appointment
16 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union

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Sky Sports England's new elite - 9 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Rugby Union: Steffon Armitage to win first cap for England as Lipmanruled out with injury - 14 hrs ago
Telegraph Ben Foden poised to win first cap for England - 28 Jan 2009
Today Online Steffon Armitage gets England rugby call - 27 Jan 2009


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