Johnson eyes improvement
November 8, 2008
Martin Johnson, The England team manager and Brian Smith (R), the England attack coach look on prior to kickoff © Getty Images
Martin Johnson was satisfied after England opened his reign as manager with an emphatic 39-13 victory over the Pacific Islanders at Twickenham.
Tries from Danny Cipriani, Nick Kennedy and Lee Mears and two by Paul Sackey ensured England started a punishing autumn schedule on a triumphant note. Cipriani also kicked 19 points, and Johnson was pleased to finally be up and running after being appointed seven months ago.
"I'm reasonably happy with that. We won the game in difficult conditions,'' he said. "We came out and looked a little bit anxious and nervous. It was stop-start, and at times we got a bit tentative. That's understandable, because this was our first match together and we were trying to put some things together. There was a bit of frustration creeping in during the first half when we played most of the rugby in our own half.''
Johnson had the opportunity to make his feelings known at the break - and he liked what he saw afterwards. "We said at half-time to control the ball more. We could have got the ball away faster sometimes,'' he added. "There's lots to talk about before Australia next Saturday, but this is the team's first game together. We're in a pretty good place and we're looking forward to next week. A lot has been made that this is my first game in charge, but I hope that's out the way. hope now we can concentrate on playing rugby.''
A bold team selection saw new caps awarded to man of the match Delon Armitage, Ugo Monye, Riki Flutey and Kennedy - while Dylan Hartley made his debut from the bench. Armitage was the pick of the new arrivals, and Johnson was delighted with the way the quintet had performed.
"We gave out five new caps, a large part of the team. I thought they played well,'' he said. "Ugo Monye and Delon Armitage were outstanding. Dylan Hartley played well off the bench. Delon has trained very well, and we hoped he could produce some of that form on the pitch - we think he managed that.''
Armitage's pace was a constant menace running from deep, and attack coach Brian Smith - who knows the full-back from his time at London Irish - was hugely impressed. "Delon has kept at it for England and got his chance. This is his reward for persisting and performing well,'' he said. He was man of the match and will be happy for that.''
England face Australia next Saturday, and Johnson claims the Wallabies may prove easier opposition than the big-hitting Islanders.
"The Pacific Islanders were a dangerous team to play. I was asked if I'd considered losing to them, because they are dangerous,'' he recalled. "It may be easier to play Australia than the Pacific Islanders, because we can have a good look at them and know what they're about. But the tempo and intensity next week will be higher.''
The Islanders are still searching for their Test victory since their inception in 2002, and coach Quddus Fielea was impressed by England.
"Congratulations to England. We made some mistakes, and that cost us. But we were impressed by the way they played,'' he said. We only had three days training together this week, and that made it difficult. But we won't use that as an excuse.''
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