Johnson upbeat after Australia loss
England manager Martin Johnson welcomed the return to international rugby of Jonny Wilkinson and predicted better days ahead for his side despite an 18-9 defeat by Australia here at Twickenham.
England were leading until the hour mark in Saturday’s match but, after a solid start, the truth was they had been hanging on since half-time.
Five-eighth Wilkinson kicked all of England’s points but grand slam-chasing Australia scored the game’s only tries through halfback Will Genia, the man-of-the-match, and full-back Adam Ashley-Cooper.
Injuries had deprived Johnson of 12 members of his senior squad in the build-up to this match and, in his words, they were facing a “battle-hardened” Australia team, albeit one that had lost six of its previous seven Tests against Tri-Nations rivals South Africa and New Zealand.
But England rarely looked like scoring a try and the worry for home fans was that even though a midfield of Shane Geraghty and Dan Hipkiss would not have been Johnson’s first pick, it was hard to imagine a choice he would have made, if given a free hand, that would have been significantly more effective.
However, Johnson, with Argentina due at Twickenham a week on Saturday, said: “We will tweak what needs to be tweaked and hopefully we will be better for it next week.”
Both of Australia’s tries might have been prevented, with Genia catching England napping on the blindside at a ruck while Ashley-Cooper, with nine minutes to go, powered his way through a couple of attempted tackles.
“They weren’t great to give away, we came off our intensity a little bit,” said Johnson, who captained England to World Cup final glory against Australia back in 2003.
“The second-half, we struggled to get out of our half, and when we did we kicked away too much ball and invited pressure.
“But I said to the guys we were playing a battle-hardened team who’ve been playing the best two teams in the world.
“We could have given ourselves a better chance…we could have made it easier for ourselves.”
This was Wilkinson’s first Test since March last year but Johnson, who saw the fly-half kick the drop-goal that won England the World Cup six years ago, was not surprised by his performance.
“Jonny is a world-class player. It’s fantastic to have him back and playing well,” said Johnson.
“What he’s been through has made him more experienced and has put him in a better stead. There’s still a lot to come from him. He’s only 30 and has missed a lot of rugby. He has tremendous presence.”
Wilkinson, rugby union’s record international points scorer, added: “Coming back here with the support and atmosphere, it’s amazing; it’s a fantastic feeling. That’s why it doesn’t feel like you’ve been away.
“It’s great to be back.”© AFP 2013
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