Martin Johnson has given the Guinness Premiership his ringing endorsement as England build towards their two-Test New Zealand tour.
Up to half of the 32-man England squad selected for matches with the All Blacks in Auckland on June 14 and Christchurch seven days later could be involved in this weekend’s play-off action.
And Johnson admits the Premiership’s quality has impressed him during his watching brief of the past few weeks since his appointment as England manager.
He said: “I watched the Gloucester versus Bath game last Saturday and what a fantastic game that was. You want your players playing in games like that.
“No team really took their foot off the gas and with the play-offs, teams are playing right to the end of the season.
“In seasons past, sometimes if you were mid-table with four or five weeks to go, there wasn’t the edge in games.
“Now, with European qualification and the play-offs, these guys are playing right to the end. We want them playing in a tough Premiership.
“The quality and intensity of the games those guys have played in would be the envy of some countries around the world.”
England head to New Zealand on June 2, with Bath lock Steve Borthwick captaining a squad that features 12 of his World Cup colleagues from last autumn’s tournament in France.