Martin Johnson says England must learn to ‘keep their hand out the cookie jar’ and fix their wretched discipline.
Johnson himself was no stranger to referees during his illustrious career and the World Cup-winning captain has urged England to get a grip.
World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has urged England to control their discipline
‘Maro’s the poster boy of penalties,’ said Johnson. ‘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.
‘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.’
Johnson was no stranger to the referees but says Itoje and co need to start holding back more
England have conceded 42 penalties in the opening three rounds of the competition. Johnson believes they are in danger of developing a terminal reputation with referees, unless they begin to fix the issue against France next week.
‘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.’
England are on course to concede a record number of penalties in this year’s Six Nations