Johnson demands England raise the bar
August 12, 2011
England manager Martin Johnson casts an eye over training ahead of his side's Rugby World Cup warm-up clash with Wales in Cardiff © Getty Images
England boss Martin Johnson has urged his side to follow the lead of their cricketing counterparts and deliver a ruthless display against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Last week Johnson spent an evening with England cricket coach Andy Flower and watched on today as his side heaped woe on India at Edgbaston to edge nearer becoming the world's best Test side.
Johnson was frustrated with how his charges fell off the pace in the final half an hour of last weekend's 23-19 victory over Wales at Twickenham and has called on his side to produce a more clinical performance tomorrow.
"If we score 600 (points), that might be nice," Johnson said. "We all enjoy sport so it's good to see them playing well. They are performing in Test matches, which is what we also want to do. It's all about performing to your best."
England faced down a hostile atmosphere at the Millennium Stadium in February to open their Six Nations title campaign with a first tournament win in Cardiff since 2003. The atmosphere was highly-charged that night, fuelled by Ben Foden's comments that Wales were England's "little brother".
Johnson will address his players before kick-off on the need to treat tomorrow's game with the same intensity, whatever noise greets them under the Millennium Stadium roof. "We helped them come back last week. Tomorrow's test will be equally if not more demanding," said Johnson.
"These games are slightly different to normal in the context and the build-up because there are World Cup places up for grabs. But when the players take the field they understand the importance of the game and are focusing on a big Test match."
Chris Ashton, who hopes to recover from a rolled ankle to start on the wing, would like the atmosphere to be just as hostile as it was in the Six Nations. England won the championship but missed out on the Grand Slam after failing to deliver when the pressure was on against Ireland in Dublin.
Ashton believes England have learned from that - but any experience of playing when the pressure is on, when everything is against them, is a good experience heading into the World Cup. "Towards the end of the Six Nations, when the pressure built on us, we started to tighten up and you play differently to how we started the tournament," said Ashton.
"You start to do things differently - Ireland are on top and you haven't been in that position before. As quite a young team, it was a whole new experience. Maybe the pressure did get to a few people. But it is all experience. We have realised we did that and learned from it.
"Hopefully now we have a get-out plan and are able to change, not always stick to route one. This is another chance to practice putting those things right. You want a hostile environment. These are Test matches, they are not friendlies. I am sure Wales will be looking to improve on last week and play better. We will be doing the same. The more pressure we are put under this week the better it will be for us. Pressure helps everyone to play their best."
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