England boss Martin Johnson today warned his ill-disciplined players he is ready to wield the axe ahead of next Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash with France.
Johnson has called top referee Wayne Barnes into the camp after England’s yellow card epidemic - they have now received 10 in four Tests - once again cost them a chance of victory.
England conceded 18 penalties at Croke Park on Saturday and had two players sin-binned, with Danny Care’s dismissal for a barge on Marcus Horan proving the decisive moment in Ireland’s 14-13 win.
Tomorrow, Johnson will force his starting XV to watch a video of every penalty England have conceded in the RBS 6 Nations in a bid to hammer some discipline into the team.
Care today apologised for his yellow card - but Johnson made it clear his patience with England’s discipline is close to breaking point.
“Players know if they make mistakes, not just in penalties but on the field, then they won’t get to play,” said Johnson.
“That threat is always hanging over you when you are in an England team, or even a club team.
“If they make bad decisions on the field in a rugby sense, never mind a penalty sense, then they won’t play.
“We pick players on their performance and part of their performance is giving penalties away. It is an error, it is a mistake.
“If you give away needless penalties that is part of your performance. We will speak to guys about what they have done.
“I have spoken briefly to Danny and I will speak to him in greater depth. Guys coming off the bench are there for an impact, particularly at scrum-half.
“We need him on the field. He has had a rush of blood or the red mist in what was a fairly fractious game - he can’t get drawn into that. We need him on the field doing what he does very well.
“Wayne Barnes is coming up and we will go through all the penalties we have given away in the last couple of games.
“We will look to eradicate any grey areas in terms of players’ interpretations of what they have done and what referees have been instructed to look out for.
“Players have to learn to cope with pressure and if you are giving away silly penalties then you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Care will not be present at the video session in England’s temporary base near Leeds having been released along with 16 other players for club duty this weekend.
Care said: “I can’t really defend what I did, but also I believe because of the disciplinary situation with England at the moment it was magnified.
“I could only hold my hands up afterwards. I apologised to the boys and said I wouldn’t let it happen again. I let my team-mates down, and you never want to feel that way as a player.”
Johnson believes England’s infringements betray a greater resolution in defence.
“Our defence through the championship has been strong. We have lost the last two Tests by a combined total of eight points.
“It makes it more frustrating. If you are getting ripped apart you expect the penalty count to be higher but we haven’t been.
“Has the reaction taken me aback? Not really. It has been an issue over the last few weeks and it is an even bigger issue now.
“We don’t want to lose Test matches and we are not giving ourselves a chance because of it.
“If guys don’t get it or didn’t get it they have got to now and we will do everything to make sure they are aware of it.”