England to emerge from Johnson's shadow?
BBC Sport in Bagshot
At times, Martin Johnson resembled a man who'd been sprung preparing some unpronounceable French dish in his kitchen while wearing a pinny. "Adventurous? Moi? Please, it's nothing really..."
The team-sheet suggested - only suggested, mind - that he was bang to rights, with the names of Matt Tait and Danny Care presented as the killer evidence. But still the England manager, as stubborn as ever, was having none of it.
"It'll probably be reported I've picked the most attacking team possible," he said, "but we'll have to defend as well. Matt Tait can do that, and so can Danny Care." Before Johnson added: "The weather reports are cold and wet for Saturday..."
But all around him, Johnson's troops were breaking ranks. "You've got to back your players to play heads-up rugby, and there's definitely been an emphasis on that since January," said recalled number eight Nick Easter.
"Things have definitely changed since the autumn," said hooker Dylan Hartley. "Going into these games there will be a new style of rugby, a heads-up style."
"As a group our mind-sets have opened up a bit to try things," said recalled scrum-half Care. "We've got the full support of the coaches to go out and express ourselves."
And even Johnson let his guard slip at one point, pointing out that Care is "probably the best running 9 that we have... he's the best guy for what we want to do on Saturday", despite earlier insisting that they hadn't made a "conscious decision" to expand their game at all.
What England want to do on Saturday is beat Wales at home in their Six Nations opener. Long-suffering "Twickenham Man", who hasn't seen his side win a championship since 2003 and who saw them score just one try in three autumn Tests, would like to see them do it with a modicum of style.
Martin Johnson is looking for a positive Six Nations performance ahead of next year's World Cup
In truth, Johnson didn't really need to shake things up too much. With full-back Delon Armitage and inside centre Riki Flutey back in the side after injuries, England would have looked a markedly more attacking side even without the addition of Tait and Care.
Flutey, a Swiss Army knife in a world in thrall to the cudgel, and Jonny Wilkinson at 10 should make for a game-breaking axis. And with men outside with pace to burn, England's fans have reason to be optimistic.
Whether England's pack can provide them with a solid enough platform from which to attack is open to debate, with the inexperienced trio of Tim Payne, Hartley and David Wilson up against an all-Lions front row of Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees and Adam Jones, with 162 Welsh caps between them. (Note: Jenkins and Rees have since been ruled out of Saturday's match)
"There's no escaping we've got our hands full there," admitted England scrum coach Graham Rowntree. "But we can't be overawed. Yes, they're British Lions, but they're a front row coming to Twickenham. That's our house, isn't it?"
With next year's World Cup in mind, what Johnson will most want to see is some evidence that his England side is developing a personality and emerging from what is, if former team-mate Lawrence Dallaglio is to be believed, his very large and inhibiting shadow.
But while Dallaglio claimed players were afraid of Johnson and scared to question his judgment, Easter and his back-row colleague James Haskell insisted otherwise.
"Johnno has always made it very clear that he wants the side to be player-led and moulded in our image, that it should be a players' environment," said Harlequins' Easter.
Stade Francais blind-side Haskell added: "The important thing we've created is the ability to communicate with the coaches, give feedback and make sure we're all on the same page."
Sporting media conferences can be monotonous affairs. Players are pre-programmed to churn out the same old platitudes, and the only time you're in danger of getting a decent quote is if somebody's wiring goes spectacularly awry.
So it's the little signs that can betray the mood in a camp. Whether it's Hartley mugging by the window like a naughty schoolboy, or calling his Northampton team-mate Chris Ashton "a clown". Or Haskell and Ugo Monye commandeering a TV camera and conducting a mock interview, before being told off by a twitchy RFU media man.
Or the story I was told of Flutey, disappearing into the woods next to the training ground before reappearing with a bunch of daffodils for his daughter. Good signs, signs of a happy camp, and heartening, too, for what do they know of sport who only sport know?
For his part, Johnno clearly still thinks most people outside his England camp know nothing. "We welcome constructive criticism. Some of it's accurate, some of it's so far off the mark so as to make me smile." And then he smiled, or at least I think he did.