Johnson dismisses Grand Slam talk
February 26, 2011
France flanker Imanol Harinordoquy clashes with England's Toby Flood at Twickenham © Getty Images
Martin Johnson says there will still be no talk of a possible Grand Slam in the England camp following their 17-9 win over France at Twickenham.
"What's the point?" said team manager Johnson tonight. "If you want to do something you talk about it at the end. If you do you set yourself up for a fall."
England have now beaten Wales away and Italy and last season's Grand Slam champions at home. Next up is Scotland at Twickenham and then comes the trip to face Ireland in Dublin. Eight tries had been scored against the Italians, but Ben Foden managed the only one of the game.
"What happened two weeks ago is the exception, not the rule," added Johnson. "These games are ferocious. Teams are here to win and we won. In the first-half (it was 9-9 at the break) we made a lot of mistakes and were a bit indecisive and not accurate. But we sorted it out. Everybody was pretty calm at half-time - the guys recognised it and we played a lot better.
"We scored one try and two others were not given. Having said that, they had one and had they scored it would have changed the game a bit. It was a good win. We really had to fight and graft. I quite enjoy that type of game - it's not always pretty, but that's Test match rugby. Last year we lost to Ireland in a similar sort of game and it rips your guts out."
Captain Mike Tindall added: "It was a good, old-fashioned physical battle. Conditions weren't great for handling the ball, but it's the sign of a team that's progressing when we can get in at half-time, have a quiet controlled talk and sort it out. Every time you take the field you want to put in a performance, but sometimes that's not realistic. Test match rugby is not like that."
Johnson, who reported "a few bruised and battered bodies", hopes that both Toby Flood (knee) and Andrew Sheridan (calf) will recover in time for the Scotland match.
France head coach Marc Lievremont said, "I said before the game that I think the England side is better than us at the moment. They are the best team in the north hemisphere, and now they have won today the path to the Grand Slam is wide open.
"I am really disappointed for the players. We knew at half-time it was going to be a very tough and close game, but we made a bad start to the second half, and that was the key. The first half was very balanced, but we remained very fragile.
"It was very difficult to come back and score again. We had to score twice, and England were fitter than us. They are a very good team, but they only won 17-9, and still have a step to go to improve their rugby."
Lievremont was left confused by some of referee George Clancy's decisions, adding, "I didn't understand any of them, neither in the scrum nor the breakdown."
The French boss was also unhappy with the fact that England No.8 Nick Easter avoided a yellow card when deliberately playing the ball at the ruck with the visitors pressing for a try. "I have to ask myself what would have been the referee's decision if a French player had killed the ball in a ruck, five metres away from the posts."
French scrum-half Dimitri Yachvili was also critical of Clancy. "I don't want to say it was a home-town referee, but it was almost like that," he said.
England scorer Foden stated, "Obviously the try came at a really important moment in the game. It's a bit of a tradition now - that's two in two games against the French for me, so hopefully I can keep it up. The Grand Slam is a long way away. We have two big games to go, and Scotland will look at coming here as a game where they can turn things round.
"We knew at half-time we had a few things to change. Johno had a few words saying we had to change the tactics a bit because they were disrupting us quite nicely."
On being tested early on by high kicks, Foden added: "I quite enjoy that. I know some teams like to do that, but bring it on."
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