Johnno hoping for new era

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LONDON, May 12- Martin Johnson's last trip to Australia as an England player ended with him holding aloft the World Cup – now he is determined to usher in a new period of success for his country when he returns as manager next month.

Johnson was England’s captain when they beat Australia in Sydney to win the World Cup in 2003 and he was brought in as their manager five years later in a bid to turn around the team’s fortunes.

His 22-month reign is yet to really take off after below-par showings in the last two Six Nations championships, while he is yet to beat any of the three southern-hemisphere giants in Tests.

But Johnson is hoping this year’s end-of-season tour will provide the spark for a bright new era.

England take on old foes Australia in two Test matches, while they also play midweek games against the Australian Barbarians twice and the New Zealand Maoris.

Johnson has named an extended 44-man squad, comprising a mixture of established regulars, players returning after spells out in the international wilderness and young hopefuls.

And he believes the squad could be on the verge of something special as they begin the countdown to next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.

"Wins against any of the big three – and there’s now a big four if you include Argentina – are pretty hard to come by," Johnson said.

"But the guys are looking forward to the tour more than any I can remember. Guys who are getting the chance to come in again are gagging to get back into the squad.

"We want to win all the games, that’s what you are there for. We want to find out about some players and ideally they will all put their hands up.

"But when have Australia ever not enjoyed playing us? That’s the thing, when we go to Australia, they are going to want to beat us.

"England versus Australia at any sport has always got an edge and I’m looking forward to going back there."

Johnson expects his side to be given a tough examination of their credentials in the two Test matches, but also hopes the Wallabies put out a strong Barbarians side for the games against England’s second-stringers.

"We haven’t been given assurances, but I think they will want those games to serve a purpose for them as well," Johnson said.

"So we anticipate them playing a strong Australia shadow Test 15, their next group of guys, as it will be for us."

As well as including a host of up-and-coming youngsters such as Dominic Waldouck, Ben Youngs, Joe Simpson and Courtney Lawes, Johnson has also brought back the likes of Olly Barkley, David Strettle and Charlie Hodgson after long spells out of favour.

Barkley, who has been in superb form for Bath since the turn of the year, last played for England in June 2008.

Sale fly-half Hodgson, meanwhile, last appeared for his country on the 2008 tour to New Zealand, when he was blamed for defensive frailties that saw him miss a tackle on All Blacks centre Ma’a Nonu which led to a try in the first Test.

He was immediately dropped from England’s elite squad but after an impressive season with Sale, Hodgson has been given another chance.

"I think it has improved," Johnson said of Hodgson’s defence.

"I think his form is good and the things he has had to work on have improved with Sale.

"Charlie wouldn’t have been picked if he didn’t have our full confidence. He’s another guy who we want to give an opportunity to and an England tour chance, what more of a chance do you need?"

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