It was five years ago to the day that Martin Johnson lifted the Rugby World Cup in Sydney, but Saturday offered no time for reminiscence as the England manager admitted he had been handed a "brutal" lesson at Twickenham. England suffered a record home defeat at the hands of South Africa, and five tries by the Springboks routed the Red Rose 42-6. England must now try to pick themselves up to face New Zealand on Saturday.
It looks a dark time for English rugby. "South Africa taught us a pretty brutal lesson," said Johnson. "I thought our effort was never to be questioned, but the team are learning the harsh realities of what it is like to play a world championship side." South Africa dominated the set-piece and breakdown completely. Both sides conceded 13 turn-overs apiece, but South Africa based their game-plan around winning the ball in the tackle area.
The Springboks had just 41 per cent of the possession, but there was no question which team used it more effectively. Johnson was in no mood to make excuses and he ruled out wholesale changes. He said: "They are my best players. There's no-one with 50 caps coming over the horizon to help us out. This is my squad." Ominously the New Zealand captain Richie McCaw has called on his team to "finish the job" and return from the November tour with their 100 per cent record intact.
McCaw put in a match-winning display in an impressive 29-9 victory over Wales. And he rallied his players to match that performance in their final tour match against England at Twickenham next weekend. "Three-quarters of the job is done," said McCaw in reference to the earlier wins against Scotland and Ireland, "but we've still got a lot to do. "Sure, England weren't great against South Africa but they remain a formidable side and we have to finish the job."
With Australia's 18-13 win over France, and Ireland's 17-3 defeat of Argentina at Croke Park also being taken into account, England still remain in fifth place in the IRB world rankings. firstname.lastname@example.org