The Saviour Of English Rugby...Really?

Barney CorkhillSenior Writer INovember 22, 2008

No-one doubts his credentials as a player. In fact, when I counted down my top ten second-row players of all time, Martin Johnson beat off stiff competition from the likes of John Eales and Colin Meads to be named as the best.

As a captain, as well, he is regarded as the best in English Rughy Union history, and one of the greatest the game has ever seen.

But as a coach, his team's performances must come under question.

Now, if one man could take on the England manager's job and know that he would be still be held in the highest esteem by most rugby fans, Johnson would be that man.

But he won't be happy with that. He wants England to be the best again.

Unfortunately, they are some way off the best. Despite a win in his first match, against the Pacific Islanders, England haven't looked in the same league as the world's elite.

Even that match against the Islanders left a lot of questions unanswered.

Last week against Australia England were outplayed and outclassed. Today against South Africa they were blown away.

Hopes were high before the match, as the Springboks had looked lacklustre, and were incredibly fortunate to have won two out of two on this tour coming into this game. Wales and Scotland ran them very close.

Worryingly, though, England were not even close to those two as they crashed to their heaviest defeat ever at Twickenham—6-42.

In the first match since the 2007 World Cup final, in which South Africa narrowly beat England, largely due to the controversial try that was never given, the Springboks showed that they still should be considered among the world's elite.

England, however, are going to have to really improve in the seven days that separate this mauling and the increasingly inevitable one they will suffer at the hands of New Zealand next Saturday.

With the All Blacks, Australia and South Africa all yet to taste defeat in these Autumn internationals, the chasm of quality between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres has, if anything, widened.