The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
Johnson seems no nearer to knowing who his World Cup centre pairing will be in New Zealand – Mathew Tait, Riki Flutey, Jamie Noon, Dan Hipkiss, Shane Geraghty, Mike Tindall and Ayoola Erinle have all featured in recent times, while England’s back-row trio – which was so settled in 2003 – seems to change on an almost game-by-game basis.
Continuity and familiarity were two cornerstones of Sir Clive Woodward’s 2003 victorious squad – and with only a little over 12 months to go until the next World Cup – Rees has called on Johnson to pin his colours to the mast once and for all.
“I get sick of people talking about age and caps because if you are young but good enough to play for England, then you will accumulate that experience,” said Rees.
“You don’t want to see it being a case of plugging in this guy, replacing him if it didn’t go well with another and it becoming a sort of roulette with the shirt.
“I think young players have to recognise that opportunities are out there so you need to do your damnest to take them.
“If you look at the 2003 World Cup winning squad, I mean they were the best team in the world but they had a fairly long time building up to it and hopefully these guys are on that path.
“It’s all well and good talking about the talent of the younger England players but I think there needs to be a balance between the Guinness Premiership and internationals in terms of being given time and chances to play and to show what they are capable of.”
England have been heavily criticised for their performances in this season’s Six Nations despite beating Wales at Twickenham, Italy in Rome, avoiding defeat against Scotland at Murrayfield and coming within a whisker of beating defending champions Ireland at home.
Rees describes England’s campaign as anything but disastrous but feels a big win – whether this summer in Australia or during the autumn internationals – is needed to transform Johnson’s nearly men into world beaters.
“England’s tournament has been a bit up and down,” said Rees. “They started against Wales and I actually felt that if people weren’t asking questions about Martin Johnson and the team, and they’d had a good autumn, then they would have got a lot more credit for the performance.
“Since then it has been the frustration against Italy, the Ireland game was very tight and again the Scotland game could have gone either way.
“That group of players have now spent a large amount of time together and have started to come together but they need a performance to cement in their minds that yes we are going somewhere with this.
“It is frustrating at times, the amount of kicking that has gone on and I think at times guys go low on confidence and it creeps in because it is almost like a get out clause and a way of dissolving yourself of any responsibility.”