Johnson (left) was England captain when Woodward was coach
World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward has backed Martin Johnson to succeed as England boss, despite believing his appointment is a gamble.
Woodward describes his former captain, who led England to victory in the 2003 World Cup, as "very clever".
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, the former England boss added: "It was a gamble, but one I'd have taken.
"If I was in charge I would have put him in - you need someone in who has an iconic status for the coach's seat."
It is five years to the day since England beat Australia to win the 2003 World Cup.
Despite that victory Woodward soon decided to relinquish control, with Andy Robinson and then Brian Ashton taking the reins.
Under the latter they reached the 2007 World Cup final, losing to Saturday's opponents South Africa, but in general it has been a difficult time for England and Johnson's appointment has been hailed as the start of a new era.
"Johnson is different. He is very bright and he will pick things up very quickly. If he has the right coaching team around, sure, he'll do very well," said Woodward.
Since taking charge, Johnson has seen England secure a comfortable win against the Pacific Islanders before last week's 28-14 loss to Australia - a loss that was marked by a high penalty count against the hosts.
That has put slight pressure on Johnson to mastermind a result when they host South Africa at Twickenham, and while Woodward admits Johnson will be judged on his results, he has called on the Rugby Football Union to stick by their man.
He needs to be given a couple of years to mould the team in the manner he wants to and bring success that way
"I am saying loud and clear that we have to give him time, especially because he is just starting out," said Woodward.
"He needs to be given a couple of years to mould the team in the manner he wants to and bring success that way.
"He's very astute. Martin will work very hard behind the scenes.
"He has more to say about the game than people think. He is very passionate about everything involved in game.
"When I was in charge I would bounce things off Martin first. He didn't always agree with what I had to say but he was always straight to the point.
"But he is on a very quick learning curve and today's game is another important part of that for him. He will want to get some wins under his belt."