Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Steele calls for England realism

Martin Johnson

Rugby Football Union chief executive John Steele has called for a "degree of realism" ahead of England's forthcoming autumn international campaign.

England tackle Tri-Nations champions New Zealand, Australia and South Africa plus Samoa on successive Saturdays at Twickenham next month.

"Playing the top three teams in world and Samoa is probably a harder group of games than you'd face in most World Cup runs," said Steele. "Currently we're sixth in the world so a degree of realism is important. We think a reasonable expectation is to win two out of the four matches."

Martin Johnson's men head into the Investec series on the back of a morale-boosting victory over Australia in Sydney and a drawn Test series Down Under.

Steele's comments can be interpreted as an attempt to take some heat off Johnson and his coaching staff less than a year out from the World Cup.

Recent reports have claimed the axe could fall on Johnson's management team if England have a poor autumn.

"What we need to establish is: can we compete with the best in the world? We'll know from how we play if that's the case," Steele told the RFU podcast.

"That said, we're playing at Twickenham and we have a coaching team and a playing group who are coming together very well and the results in Australia were indicative of that.

"Once we've had the Investec Internationals we'll do what all high performing organisations do in sport and analyse what we did, where we can improve and what it means for the next milestone which is the RBS Six Nations.

"My role is to support Martin Johnson and the England team and ensure they've got everything they need to perform. England's had six or seven years of chopping and changing and not being quite sure what it's trying to achieve and I think there's a real opportunity to see a squad that's now on the up."

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