Johnson offers no excuses
March 19, 2011
Johnson: "The boys are disappointed"%]
Martin Johnson admitted England would have to "wear the scar" after seeing their Grand Slam dream shattered by a 24-8 defeat at Aviva Stadium.
England's hopes of completing a first Six Nations clean sweep since 2003 were ruined at the final hurdle after Ireland ran riot in a contest they dominated throughout. Tommy Bowe and Brian O'Driscoll ran in tries while Jonathan Sexton finished with the man-of-the-match award following a magnificent display at fly-half topped by a 14-point haul.
The tone was set when Ireland sent their opponents hurtling backwards at a second-minute scrum and Johnson admitted England were never in the contest. "This is a scar and we'll have to wear that scar. Do you have to get your scars and bruises in before you win something?" said the manager.
"You hope not, but Ireland had theirs before they won the Grand Slam in 2009. I told the players we'll take this on the chin. We were beaten by a good team, an experienced team. Ireland are very good at what they do. They have a lot of caps, we don't. We hoped we'd do better.
"We knew at the start of the Championship it would take one heck of a team to win five and we were in with a shot. The boys are very disappointed because they wanted to win a Test match and we know what was at the end of it. Ireland played well and we were beaten. We had a horrible first half.
"Very quickly things can slip away from you and we ended up where we were. We were always chasing the game. It was tough but we gave it a crack in the second half because we needed to play.
"It summed up our day up when two of our players ended up passing straight back to them. When you're in a fight you want to feel like you've landed a few blows, but we didn't. They kept on taking shots at us."
Johnson denied his substitution of Ben Youngs was punishment for the yellow card he received in the 36th minute. The Leicester scrum-half was sin binned for petulantly hurling the ball into the crowd moments after Toby Flood had executed a try-saving tackle on David Wallace. "It was a tactical decision, we wanted to get our substitutes on pretty early. We needed to roll the dice and couldn't wait until later in the game," said Johnson.
England breached the whitewash just once with substitute Steve Thompson picking off an interception try and Johnson bristled at the suggestion today's performance was a retrograde step. "It's all rugby. Winning the breakdown is rugby. Kicking for the corners is rugby," he said.
"Ireland played a very good Test match today. We've had good balance in our games to date. Winning Test matches is about a lot of things, not just what people call 'playing rugby'. Playing rugby is about putting points on the board and we were second today."
Victory ensured Ireland avoided equalling their worst Six Nations performance and O'Driscoll was pleased his team finally delivered on their promise. "We felt we had a big performance in us. We'd been threatening at times during the first four games but lacked the composure we showed today," said the captain. "We showed real intensity and this was a complete performance. The pack fronted up and along with the control of Jonathan Sexton were the winning of the game.
"Of course there's a little frustration that it's taken until the last game of the Six Nations to produce that, but those games are gone. All we could do today was put in a performance that we felt we owed ourselves more than anyone else.
England manager Martin Johnson reacts to his side's defeat to Ireland © Getty Images
"We are the ones who know what hard graft goes in and the sacrifices made. I never believed we became a bad team in a year, we just perhaps hadn't got the breaks and been as clinical as we had in the past.
"We put that right to some degree today. It was an impressive performance and the result took care of itself. We weren't a million miles away in the other games but the ball stuck today and hopefully we can push on from this. There's not much point in having a big performance every four or five games."
Ireland head coach Declan Kidney refused to be drawn on the fly-half debate following Jonathan Sexton's Man of the Match performance. "In Ireland we are blessed with two very good outside halves in Jonathan and Ronan. It doesn't matter who plays, the difficulty is who not to pick rather than who to pick," said Kidney.
"There's a whole conundrum in making the decision and the important thing is not to bracket it, both players can play different styles of game. There are debates all over the pitch but obviously no.10 is a bit of a highlight position, long may the debate continue if the two boys can stay fit and keep at it. Their contribution towards the team and their generosity is what makes us work as a team."
O'Driscoll's 47th-minute touch down saw him become the Championship's all-time leading try scorer with 25, surpassing a record that has stood for 78 years. "It's a nice thing to think about, but I've never been one for individual accolades," he said.
"You win and lose as a team and today we'll very much enjoy this win as a team. Individual accolades are what you think about when your career is finished, but I hope I have a bit left me in so I won't dwell on it."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton