Johnson refuses to get carried away
February 4, 2011
England lock Louis Deacon is yellow carded by referee Alain Rolland © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson was delighted to see his side secure victory over Wales in their Six Nations opener in Cardiff but has demanded improvement next weekend.
Wing Chris Ashton grabbed two tries for the visitors in their 26-19 Millennium Stadium victory, with man-of-the-match Toby Flood adding 13 points with the boot and replacement Jonny Wilkinson kicking a late penalty to wrap up England's first win in the Welsh capital since 2003.
England now have three home games in a row, and have the chance to set up a Grand Slam clash with Ireland in Dublin on the final weekend of the championship. But Johnson is not looking beyond next weekend's Twickenham assignment with Italy. "I am really, really happy with the win as that's what we came here for," he said. "We have not won away from home for a while in the Six Nations so it's good, but if we play badly next week against Italy what would that feel like?
"So we have to keep going and keep improving and the great thing is there is a lot we can improve on. The great thing is when you get the same guys back in camp as you had on the summer tour and in the autumn, you get that continuity and you can go from putting foundations in place to putting more detail on to your plans and ensuring we execute under pressure and there is plenty more to come. We left some chances out there but that composure is getting there game on game."
The build-up to the game had been dominated by a war of words and Johnson praised the way his side had coped with the heated atmosphere. "They did not rise to any bait in the last 10 days," said Johnson of his squad. "They had a good excitement about coming here and they were relaxed, almost too relaxed for my liking which I found a bit worrying!"
Johnson also paid tribute to the performance of Flood, who kept his composure admirably amidst the Millennium Stadium maelstrom. "Toby is a very smart guy. He wants to get better and learn. He did a great job, a fantastic job overall and we have Jonny there as well. You can see them getting better week on week."
This defeat for Wales means they have now failed to win any of their last eight Tests, and they face a tricky trip to Murrayfield next weekend after tonight's disappointment. And head coach Warren Gatland felt his side had paid the price for failing to capitalise on the sin-binning of England lock Louis Deacon in the first half.
"It was 3-3 during that spell and in that period we were guilty of kicking the ball away on a couple of occasions when we should have played through phases, which was disappointing," said the Kiwi. "Then with the yellow we had we held on for nine minutes and they scored a try in the last minute of it. They took their opportunity during the yellow card and we didn't take ours."
But Gatland said he could not question the commitment of his men. "Someone had to lose and unfortunately that was us, but I can't fault the effort of the players - they tried really hard. We are disappointed but it was a good, hard physical Test match.
"I don't think there was a huge amount between the sides. I thought at times we were fantastic and we played a good offloading game and caused England problems."
Gatland also praised the way Hartley had responded to his comments. "I was just trying to get the publicity for a book I'm writing," he joked. "I made a couple of comments out of frustration at us losing players from our squad through an incident (Wales scrum-half Richie Rees was banned for 12 weeks after Hartley gave evidence to his disciplinary hearing for making contact with the hooker's eye area during a Heineken Cup game).
"But he is a quality player and I have said that in a few interviews since, but those comments don't get reported. Their lineout went well and it was a good competitive performance from him."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham