England coach Martin Johnson leapt to the defence of Jonny Wilkinson and said critics of the Toulon fly-half were working to their own agendas.
Wilkinson has been blamed for failing to inspire England as an attacking force, with even his former World Cup winning team-mate Matt Dawson saying he struggles without experienced players around him.
But Johnson was quick to offer support for the stand-off he won the 2003 World Cup alongside, insisting Wilkinson is quickly becoming an easy target for England’s try-shy attack.
Johnson said: “Jonny missed a few kicks and suddenly everyone's calling for his head which I find pretty disappointing and surprising.
"It's become the vogue to have a pop at Jonny. I don't think that's right or fair. I think some people are using it for their own agendas but that's the world we live in.”
And while Johnson insisted that no player’s position in his team is safe, he dropped hints that he has no intention of erasing Wilkinson’s name on the teamsheet for next weekend’s clash with Ireland.
“No one's undroppable, no one ever has been. Whoever you are there's always someone better who's been dropped," Johnson added.
“We made five or six line breaks against Italy which should have resulted in more scores.
“So was it Jonny's fault? No, it's a team thing. There's not one single area that really cost us. The
opportunities were created."
There was a further indication that Johnson will keep faith with Wilkinson for the match against Ireland after Toby Flood, the only other recognised fly-half in the squad, has been released to play for Guinnes Premiership side Leicester this weekend.
Flood started at inside-centre against Wales, in place of the injured Riki Flutey, but was the only player on the bench against Italy not to make it onto the field.