England Saxons captain Jordan Crane is backing Exeter’s Tom Johnson to continue his climb up the international ranks.
A superb first season in the Aviva Premiership with the Chiefs saw Johnson called up to face the Barbarians at Twickenham, where the flanker scored on his first appearance in an England shirt.
He switched to the open side last weekend and scored again in the Churchill Cup record breaking 87-8 win against the USA for the Saxons. Tonga are next up for Johnson and his teammates at Kingsholm on Sunday (2.30pm).
“Tom Johnson’s been a real surprise package – a bit like Exeter Chiefs this season,” said Crane.
“Watching him play against the Barbarians and then playing well again last weekend, he’s had two great games. He’s made the step up easily.
“Long may it continue and surely if he keeps playing as well as he did last week he’s going to be asking questions of the people above him too, so I think he fits in great. He’s definitely one to watch over the next couple of years.”
Crane will lead the Saxons for the second weekend after Kingsholm favourite Luke Narraway was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament by a sore back.
They face a stiff task against the Tongans, who beat the USA 44-13 this week and peak in World Cup years, running both England and South Africa close in 2007.
“We know Tonga will be a big physical battle and we need to be more physical than we were against the USA,” said Crane.
“We let them come at us and that was the only disappointing thing that came out of the game. We’ll look to up that against Tonga and put in a performance that takes us through to the final.”
Win that battle up front and Crane believes the Saxons have the potential to cut loose once more.
“Our back line was pretty good on the weekend and it’s exciting for Englsh rugby to see the guys coming through,” he said.
“Alex Goode, Henry Trinder, Billy Twelvetrees, Rory Clegg – they’re just really good players who all had great games.
“It’s exciting for England to have these guys coming through the system and I hope we can give them all as much experience as possible to make the step up.”
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