London - Rugby World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has expressed his
concern over what he perceives to be a lack of depth in English rugby.
Johnson made the comments whilst speaking to The Times
in the wake of the RFU’s insistence that Hurricanes flank Brad
Shields would be picked by England for the upcoming June tour of South
Shields will become eligible when he moves to Wasps at the end of the
season. The tough-tackling New Zealand-born loose forward qualifies for
England through his parents.
It led former lock Johnson to question why England couldn’t produce
more top-end talent of its own and had to desperately go searching
“We should be producing more top-end players,” Johnson told The Times.
“I don’t know what the answer is. There’s more people employed in
developing rugby talent in this country than ever before - so why is it
not coming through? It is a concern. We don’t seem to have the depth.
“Who’s this guy they’re signing from New Zealand?
“My answer is: there’s a reason they’re doing it (bringing in
Shields). This has been coming for a while. Eddie’s doing it because he
obviously doesn’t think he’s got enough talent in England.
“It doesn’t offend me. It is worrying that he doesn’t think the
players are in this country. We should be producing the players to have
an international squad and be able to cover the natural unavailability.
We don’t seem to have that depth at the moment.
“Guys like Sam Simmonds, Sam Underhill - get in and get injured. You
want to see those guys. South Africa will be great for them if they can
go and play there.
“I have been worried a while - where are the next players? If you
have a team that’s going well and they play until they are quite old, by
definition, the next generation are not coming through, not getting a
“I’m sure some people would say they are but that they are not
getting a chance to play because the Premiership clubs are just bringing
in foreign players.”