June International Tours

Johnson backs Lions to level series


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Former Lions Captain and now England Rugby boss Martin Johnson has backed the British and Irish Lions to level the series with South Africa at Loftus Versfeld this weekend.

Johnson gave his prediction but said that it was on the condition that the Lions had learned their lessons from the first test.

The Lions go into the second Test, which will be played at altitude, one down in the series after losing 26-21 in the opening match but with two matches to play.

Should the Lions lose the Pretoria Test they will no longer be able to win or draw the series.

They will however start the second test with confidence after surging back from being 26-7 down to lose 26-21. The Lions crossed the Springboks line six times but only managed to score three tries to the Springboks two tries.

Johnson believes that Ian McGeechan’s men can win at Loftus Versfeld as long as they stamp out the mistakes and take their chances.

“Of course they can win,” England team manager Johnson told Radio Five Live.

The last time the Lions won a series Martin Johnson was the captain of the team and it was in South Africa on their 1997 tour.

“You can’t concede the penalties you did at set piece and the turnovers you did at set piece obviously, that’s a big points turnaround.

“And the try they conceded from the maul and the first try as well, I think defensively you both say they’re avoidable.

“And take you’re chances.” Johnson stressed.

“I mean they had plenty of chances to score, not just the tries but also kicking the points over and maybe taking a drop goal.”

“There’s times when we had pressure and territory in the first half when you thought just stick over three points now and it keeps you in the game.”

“You know it’s 15 against 15 when they go out there on Saturday. You’ve got you’re last chance here.

“If they lose the series is gone.” said Johnson.

“Let’s just go out and give it absolutely everything you’ve got, go to a higher level of intensity and if you go out there and put it all on the field for an hour and you fall to bits in the last 20 minutes at least you’ve put it out there.”

“Just have that attitude, that freedom to go and play at maximum speed from the first minute and see what happens.

“There’s nowhere to hide, there’s no excuses, just go out and give it your all and see what happens.”

On England and their contribution to this year’s Lions tour Johnson said, “People were staying at the start, in the middle of the Six Nations, there’s going to be no Lions. We’ve got 10 guys out there.

Tom Croft and Simon Shaw will be the only Englishmen to start the Test but if Andrew Sheridan comes on England would have three. England’s two compares to seven Irish players and six Welsh. There is one Scotsman on the bench.

“We had four in the first Test. Unfortunately three of them have been dropped.” said Johnson.

“But that’s the nature of playing Test match rugby.”

If you’re not perceived to have performed and done what you need to do then you can get dropped.”

“I trust any of our guys to go out there and give a good account of themselves and I still stick by that.”

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