Boss and Haskell blast team after big score fails to mask sloppiness
ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson warned his side they face an early World Cup exit if they do not improve drastically, despite yesterday’s six-try victory over Georgia.
Much-maligned centre Shontayne Hape and swallow-diving wing Chris Ashton both scored two apiece, while Manu Tuilagi and Delon Armitage also went over in a bonus-point win that put England top of Pool B.
Although an improvement on the scrappy opening win over Argentina, there was still much to concern Johnson, not least a generosity with penalties that could have cost them the game, had Georgia’s Merab Kvirikashvili been less wasteful.
“It wasn’t good enough and if we are happy with those standards we’ll go home early. We need to be a bit sharper and we are under no illusions that we need to get better,” said Johnson.
Back-row forward James Haskell called for underperforming individuals to be singled out. “People have got to start pointing some fingers and saying ‘This is not acceptable’. The days of brushing it under the carpet are gone. It has got to that stage, got that serious. It starts with identifying individuals, areas we need to improve. who’s not working hard, who’s not trusting it [the system].”
England looked on course for a big win when Hape went over after just three minutes but their indiscipline at the breakdown, which cost six penalties in the first quarter of an hour, could have seen them trail.
Hape scored again before England were punished, when Georgia No8 Dimitri Basilaia broke from the scrum and surged over for a try while Johnson’s men were reduced to 14 men by Dylan Hartley’s sin-binning.
Johnson sent England out a more dangerous side after the interval, and Armitage and then Tuilagi both crossed for tries while the opposition continued to squander penalties.
Georgia, who had played just four days earlier, tired in the closing stages, allowing Ashton to claim a pair of tries and flourish his famous celebration and put a barely-deserved gloss on the occasion for England.
WINNERS & LOSERS
England’s most prolific scorer rediscovered touch and gave his celebration its World Cup debut with two tries. Not just on the end of moves, however, setting up Hape’s second.
Still to convince critics he is worth a starting place, but the New Zealand-born centre did his chances no harm at all with two accomplished tries and a strong all-round game.
England’s oldest ever World Cup player defied his 37 years with a tireless display of strong carrying, countless tackles and authority in the lineout.
Boosted chances of keeping No10 jersey by injecting pace and fluency into game while showing a reliability with the boot that deserted rival Jonny Wilkinson last week.
Sent to the sin-bin in the first half for an offence at the breakdown and it was while the hooker was absent that Georgia’s territorial dominance resulted in their only try.
Perhaps harsh given it was his first match back from injury and only his sixth all year, but no doubt he came off second best in duel with Georgia openside Mamuka Gorgodze.