Johnson: I won’t settle for us being nearly men

ENGLAND(16) v/s NEW ZEALAND(26)

ENGLAND may have offered hope with a late rally against New Zealand but manager Martin Johnson has warned his team not to be content with the role of gallant losers, even if it is against the world’s best.

The home side’s fightback from 14-0 down at half-time against the All Blacks offered encouragement, while the Twickenham crowd might even have had a memorable victory to toast had centre Shontayne Hape touched down late on.

But Johnson, while buoyed by the show of resilience in England’s first Test of the autumn campaign, has left his beaten players in no doubt that another near miss will not suffice when Australia rock up next weekend.

“I didn’t want them to be happy with the comeback and happy to be near,” he said. “If you want to get better you don’t go around being satisfied. There was lots of good stuff but let’s not pat ourselves on the back, that’s what we expect.

“The Australians are lethal in terms of taking opportunities and spotting space. We know how dangerous they can be. By no means do we think we have got the tough one out of the way. If you get into that trap you will get yourself beaten very quickly.”

Replacement Dylan Hartley scored England’s only try and the New Zealand-born Northampton captain echoed his manager’s sentiments ahead of Saturday’s clash with more southern hemisphere heavyweights.

“Bring on Australia,” he said. “Winning is so important to this team. A lot of people from the outside will say, ‘You played well in the second-half and you played some good rugby’. But that isn’t good enough for us.

“We are on a level with these guys. We don’t put them on a pedestal and so we are disappointed. If we had turned the All Blacks over it would have been a real step forward for us. The team is quite hurt but we can take confidence from the way we played and take that into next week.”

Hape, meanwhile, insists England should have been awarded a penalty try in the closing stages for the challenge by Isaia Toeava that knocked the ball from the centre’s clutches as he was about to touch down in the corner.

“It wasn’t a tackle,” said Hape. “It was a shoulder charge and I thought maybe we would get a penalty try or something.

“When I saw the footage there was a hell of an impact. It happened so fast and boom, you get smashed out. In the last five minutes, we were having a good crack at them and they were a man down. It would have been interesting.

“It was also disappointing to give them that period in the first-half when they scored quick tries.”


RUGBY WINNERS & LOSERS

WHO swam and who sank? City A.M. sorts the champs from the chumps.

ANDREW SHERIDAN
A strong showing from the big Sale prop, given it was his first Test appearance for 20 months. Reassuringly powerful in the scrum but could perhaps do with improving on his ball-carrying.

BEN YOUNGS
Although short of the performance some had hoped for, the Leicester scrum-half impressed with customary liveliness and dynamism. Coped well with a barrage from New Zealand loose forwards.

MIKE TINDALL
Decent in defence but nullified in attack, he missed passes and tackles and dropped balls. Will rue failure to convert a two-on-one opportunity, although he was involved in England’s sole try.

TOM PALMER
Worked hard and won some lineouts but did not stand out on a day when England’s front five did well. The Stade Francais lock was made to look decidedly unathletic by his All Black adversaries.