Rugby-England will emerge better for painful loss says Johnson

Reuters

Sat, 19 Mar 21:33:00 2011

England coach Martin Johnson said his team's inexperience played a part in them missing out on a Six Nations grand slam on Saturday and that, like him, they would have to wear their scars before completing a clean sweep.

England were swept aside 24-8 by a rampant Ireland but won their first championship in eight years thanks to their four wins to the three of France, Wales and Ireland.

Johnson captained England to their last grand slam, and last title, in 2003 but was a victory away from doing so in each of the previous four seasons and said his young side may also need to do it the hard way.

"Well as they (Ireland) played, good as they are - if you're in a fight, you want to land a few (punches) and we didn't feel like we landed any," Johnson told a news conference.

"Do you have to get your scars and your bruises in before you win something? You hope not but Ireland had theirs before they won their grand slam and I certainly had mine before we won ours in 2003. We can make it a good thing or a bad thing from where we go from here."

With Ireland playing their best rugby since winning the grand slam in 2009 -- and perhaps performing better than in any game of that campaign -- England never had a chance of becoming the fourth different team to win a grand slam in four years.

Johnson said early turnovers and knock-ons hardly helped their cause but that his side's lack of experience -- Ireland's starting XV had 622 caps to England's 314 -- maybe played a "little bit" of a part in the defeat.

"They've got a lot of caps, we haven't," Johnson said simply.

"It's the first time a lot of our guys have come and done this and I'm not talking about trying to win a grand slam, I'm talking about playing a full season of test matches.

"It's been a big long run of international games. You don't want to make any excuses, we thought we had enough to come here and compete, be in the game and win and we weren't in it anywhere near long enough."

After a shaky start to Johnson's reign in 2008, England have recovered well this season and the Six Nations win -- their first success since winning the 2003 World Cup victory -- ended their longest barren spell without a championship win since the 1980s.

With another World Cup to look forward to in September, the coach said Saturday's loss would not halt their progression

"I'm disappointed but the positive is we've a good group of players who are only going to get better. It's an exciting group and (the loss) doesn't change that."

 

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