Handling pressure is key to winning
England manager Martin Johnson believes the World Cup will be won by the side that can handle the pressure the best, on and off the field.
At the team’s first media session since arriving in New Zealand last week, Johnson said it won’t be a style of playing the game that will be successful, but an attitude in playing.
‘‘There is a certain resilience that will win this World Cup,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘ You’re going have to be tough, be able to deal with the pressure, expectation and the expectation on New Zealand will be huge.’’
Pressure will also be on South Africa as the defending champion and Johnson acknowledged English fans’ expectations are also a burden on his side.
‘‘World Cups are all about pressure, dealing with it off the field and obviously on the field. You get into close games in the last 10 minutes and it’s all to play for. I’m sure there will be a game like that. Whoever wins it, I’m sure they’ll have one game where they’re down or level going into the last quarter of an hour.
‘‘Finding a way to win is what World Cups are about. If you talk about style, it’s a team that can battle back and find a way to win a close game in a knockout.’’
Johnson was asked about the relevance of the pre-cup games, particularly those in the TriNations and the warm up fixtures in the northern hemisphere.
He feels that while wins and losses from those games may be a talking point now, they’ll all be irrelevant once the World Cup begins.
‘‘Ireland haven’t won one, we’ve won two and lost one.
Will All Blacks’ and Wallabies’ wins/losses affect them? ‘‘Well if they let it,’’ he replies. ‘‘I’m sure they’re going to be very competitive despite a couple of losses.
‘‘Once you get to a World Cup they’re all stand alone games, no matter what happened last year, month or week.’’
Johnson knows New Zealand well. His wife is a Kiwi and he spent time playing here early in his career.
And it’s because of his knowledge of the country that he’s able to state confidently that New Zealand will put on a good tournament.
‘‘I think it will be great, when you have a tournament in one country, the whole country gets behind it,’’ he said.
Stepping up: With injuries to Kieran Read – ankle – and Adam Thomson – elbow – stripping the All Blacks back to just three fit loose forwards, punters may be nervous, but Kaino says he’s good to go.
Kaino now becomes the second most senior loose forward behind skipper Richie McCaw, and he’s pumped about that.