Martin Johnson knows the pressure is on as England attempt to rescue their Six Nations campaign from ruin with a victory over France today. England return to Twickenham following away defeats to Wales and Ireland which saw them drop to their worst world ranking of eighth. Another defeat could make it virtually impossible for England, who came second in the 2008 Six Nations under Brian Ashton, to finish in the top half of the table.
Johnson insisted he was not concerned by the ranking slip - but he accepted that pressure inevitably comes with the job description of being the England manager. "You are always under pressure," he said. "If we had won three games we would be under pressure to try and win the championship. "Pressure is what international sport is all about and dealing with that, coping with that is a huge part of the deal for us as coaches and for the players as well.
"We judge ourselves. We know when we have made mistakes and got things wrong and we know what we are trying to do and where we are trying to get to. "I just want to get this team to improve. We have made improvements in the last two games. We are trying to win Test matches." Today's clash is lining up to be as physical as any Test match could be, with England recalling the powerful Simon Shaw while France have beefed up with the inclusion of lock Jerome Thion and Sebastien Chabal in the back row.
England have also brought Ugo Monye on to the wing for Paul Sackey and Tom Croft's pace and aerial abilities were preferred at blindside flanker for the match. "It will be a very passionate and emotional atmosphere, we need to create that but within it we also need the control and execution and precision in what we do," added Johnson. "If we can create pressure on them in all aspects of the game then we will give ourselves a chance.
The France flanker Thierry Dusautoir is expecting a tough test for him and his teammates as they look to build on their 21-16 win over Wales in Paris last month. "We are maybe a little more upbeat than previous weeks and we must keep up what we demand of ourselves," he said. "They are still a very physical team and to beat them, we must rise to this challenge. "We have had to work on our tactics - because what we did against the Welsh will clearly not work against the English. "We have had to take that into account, and everyone knows it isn't easy to play at Twickenham. "We have to make the most of the momentum we built up two weeks ago and get stuck in."
* PA Sport