Johnson cracks down on England’s yellow peril

ENGLAND boss Martin Johnson yesterday warned his ill-disciplined players he is ready to wield the axe ahead of next week’s RBS 6 Nations clash with France.

Johnson has called top referee Wayne Barnes into the camp after England’s yellow card epidemic — they have now received 10 in four Tests — once again cost them a chance of victory.

England conceded 18 penalties at Croke Park on Saturday and had two players sin-binned, with Danny Care’s dismissal for a barge on Marcus Horan proving the decisive moment in Ireland’s 14-13 win.

Today Johnson will force his starting XV to watch a video nasty of every penalty England have conceded in the Six Nations in a bid to hammer some discipline into the team.

Care has apologised for his yellow card — but Johnson made it clear his patience with England’s discipline is close to breaking point.

“Players know if they make mistakes, not just in penalties but on the field, then they won’t play,” said Johnson.

“If they make bad decisions on the field in a rugby sense, never mind a penalty sense, then they won’t play.”

Care will not be present at the video session with Wayne Barnes in England’s temporary base near Leeds having been released along with 16 other players for club duty this weekend. The Harlequins scrum-half apologised for his yellow card yesterday but claims he was a victim of England’s current bad boy reputation.

“I can’t really defend what I did, but also I believe because of the disciplinary situation with England at the moment it was magnified,” he said. “I apologised to the boys and said I wouldn’t let it happen again. I let my team-mates down, and you never want to feel that way as a player.”

Johnson also pointed the finger at Phil Vickery, who was sin-binned for a technical offence despite repeated warnings from referee Craig Joubert.

He said: “Ten yellow cards doesn’t embarrass me, it disappoints me because it is costing us opportunities to win games. Did Phil Vickery listen to the referee? Probably not. Did he deserve a yellow card? Probably.”

Meanwhile France have plumped for the experience of four stalwarts of the Bernard Laporte reign to face England at Twickenham on Sunday week.

Head coach Marc Lievremont vowed he would freshen up his squad following last Friday’s 21-16 win over Wales at the Stade de France, and he has been true to his word, making four changes to his 23-man group.

Jerome Thion, Julien Bonnaire, Damien Traille and Florian Fritz are recalled at the expense of Fulgence Ouedraogo, Louis Picamoles, Clement Poitrenaud and Benoit Baby.

Sebastien Chabal returns to his usual place in the back row, having played at lock for France and Sale since November.

The changes beef up Les Bleus’ squad for what is expected to be a physical battle against Johnson’s men.

Biarritz lock Thion and Clermont-Auvergne flanker Bonnaire were major figures in the final few years of the Laporte era, but have not featured for Lievremont’s Les Bleus since last year’s Six Nations.

Traille, who earned the last of his 66 caps in the defeat to Australia in November, has been a bit-part player under Lievremont but is in form for Biarritz and can play a number of posts in a back division.

He is chiefly a centre like Fritz, who returns having served his three-week suspension for punching during the 30-21 defeat to Ireland but can also provide cover at fly-half and full-back.

France (squad v England, March 15):

Forwards: L. Faure (Sale), F. Barcella (Biarritz), D. Szarzewski (Stade Français), B. Kayser (Leicester), T Domingo (Clermont), S Marconnet (Stade Français), J Thion (Biarritz), L Nallet (Castres, capt), R Millo-Chluski (Toulouse), I Harinordoquy (Biarritz), T Dusautoir (Toulouse), J Bonnaire (Clermont), S Chabal (Sale)

Backs: M Parra (Bourgoin), S Tillous-Borde (Castres), F Trinh-Duc (Montpellier), Y Jauzion (Toulouse), F Fritz (Toulouse), M Bastareaud (Stade Français), C Heymans (Toulouse), M Médard (Toulouse), D Traille (Biarritz), J Malzieu (Clermont).

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