Rugby World Cup 2011
Johnson rebuffs faltering France claims
ESPNscrum Staff
October 1, 2011
France are left to ponder on what might have been following a disappointing performance, France v Tonga, Rugby World Cup, Wellington Stadium, New Zealand, October 1, 2011
France slumped to defeat to Tonga © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Toby Flood | Jonny Wilkinson
Tournaments/Tours: Rugby World Cup
Teams: England | France | Scotland

England manager Martin Johnson warned his men France will be dangerous opponents in next Saturday's Rugby World Cup quarter-final - despite their shock defeat by Tonga.

Les Bleus stumbled into the knockout stages with a record of two wins and two defeats while England progressed as unbeaten Pool B winners. England have beaten France in the semi-finals of the last two World Cups and they won 17-9 at Twickenham en route to claiming this year's Six Nations title.

Johnson is a keen history buff - but he insisted all that would be irrelevant when the two sides meet at Eden Park next Saturday for a place in the semi-finals.

"France losing to Tonga means nothing. You play these games in isolation," Johnson said. "When you get to a quarter-final what happened last week, last month, last year or the last time we played them means nothing.

"France are dangerous and never more so than when flying under the radar a bit, which they are, but so are we. It steps up next week in terms of the opposition."

England may have progressed unbeaten into the quarter-finals but their passage has been far from simple. Having come from behind to beat Argentina, Johnson's men today found themselves 12-3 down to Scotland and, at that point, facing the prospect of World Cup elimination.

England were under the cosh for the best part of an hour against Scotland, their set-piece creaked worryingly and Jonny Wilkinson's goal-kicking collapsed again. But at the key moment, Wilkinson dropped a sweet goal with his wrong foot and then landed a penalty to put England back in touch at 12-9.

England then hit the front with three minutes remaining when Chris Ashton scored the decisive try, his sixth of the tournament to set a new red rose World Cup record.

"A number of our guys, the majority of the side, played the biggest games of their lives today and did well to get themselves back after being nine points down," Johnson said. "We have to play better than we did today to have a chance of beating France."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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