x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Johnson looks forward to tougher challenges

The England manager Martin Johnson looks forward to tougher challenges after the comfortable win against the Pacific Islanders.

The England manager Martin Johnson was impressed with his team's win but suggests that there is still room for improvement.
The England manager Martin Johnson was impressed with his team's win but suggests that there is still room for improvement.

LONDON // The England manager Martin Johnson looks forward to tougher challenges after easing himself into his new job with a 39-13 victory over the Pacific Islanders. After months of shuffling names on paper and studying videos, Johnson and his coaching team have something to build on before next week's match against Australia and the subsequent Tests against South Africa and New Zealand. "We won the game, scored five tries and defended pretty well. The guys in the back three played very well so we are in a pretty good place and looking forward to next week," Johnson said.

"The guys know it's going to be a step up against a team who have played together in the Tri-Nations and will be better organised than the Islanders, who only had a week together. There were certainly plenty of encouraging signs for Johnson, not least the assured display of his four starting debutants. The athletic lock Nick Kennedy, brought in specifically for his line-out skills as England seek to win more first-phase ball after the new rules of phase breakdown, particularly the new rules around mauling, did just that and also weighed in with a try.

The winger Ugo Monye was fast in attack and solid in defence against the hefty Islanders while Riki Flutey was impressive at inside centre. The player who most caught the eye was the fullback Delon Armitage. His man-of-the-match performance prompted Johnson to say that he had never seen a better debut. Assured under the high ball and in the tackle he was also dangerous in attack and showed great awareness to loop an inside pass to Paul Sackey for the first of the winger's two tries.

"He's got his reward for persisting at club level. He's been on the money all week and did very well," said the England attack coach Brian Smith. With nine players having played in the position in 18 months, Armitage now has the chance to become a regular. "I always wanted to play for England and show what I can do in front of a big crowd," said the 24-year-old. "I'm just upset the game went so quickly. There were about 20 members of my family in the East Stand today. I think it's a day they'll never forget either."

Danny Care put in a great performance at scrumhalf despite giving a try away when a clearing kick was charged down. Flyhalf Danny Cipriani made amends with a try and linked well with his fellow halfback in their first Test of what Johnson hopes will be a long and fruitful partnership. The most disappointing element of the Test was England's scrummaging, which was generally a mess all afternoon on the slippery surface.

The hosts also had a meandering spell in the second half when the Islanders controlled play, showing that England still have to improve. "I've told them to enjoy the win but there is lots to talk about and lots to work on against Australia," Johnson concluded. *Reuters