Martin Johnson David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images
Balls Balls Balls

Johnson forced to answer more tough questions

The England coach has expressed regret over an incident that saw two of his staff suspended for the team’s final pool clash.

THE TWO COACHES banned from England’s showdown against Scotland on Saturday were “wrong” to have acted like they did and have been punished accordingly.

A stern-looking Martin Johnson appeared in front of reporters ahead of the vital clash and was once again asked several questions unrelated to his team’s preparations or form.

On this occasion, the England boss was apologetic for the latest controversy involving his squad while insisting the matter is now in the past.

Kicking coach Dave Alred and conditioning specialist Paul Stridgeon will not be present in Eden Park on Saturday morning or involved with the match in any way following confirmation that the men switched balls twice – to allow Jonny Wilkinson kick with a certain ball – during England’s 67-3 win over Romania without asking referee Romain Poite’s permission.

Johnson believes the pair acted “in the heat and confusion of a Test”, adding: “We should have asked the referee (if the balls could be switched), we didn’t. They asked us to stop, we did. I don’t suspend guys lightly. We regret what we did and it was wrong.”

He concluded: “These guys have made a mistake. It’s as simple as that. They’ve paid for it.”

This is not the first time that Johnson’s side has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the last couple of weeks. World Cup officials were unimpressed when numbers peeled off the back of their famous black shirts during their opening pool game against Argentina, before the antics of several players on a drunken night out were widely reported around the globe.

England will, however, qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament if they secure a losing bonus point from the game against their neighbours – suggesting Johnson will have plenty more to comment on for another while at least…

READ – O’Gara gets the nod for Ireland’s big Italian job

READ – England camp play down Wilkinson’s ball switcheroo

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