England 14-28 Austrlaia
Vickery pleads ffor patience
PA Sport
November 16, 2008
Andrew Sheridan of England looks on with team mates Lee Mears (L) and Phil Vickery during the match between England and Australia at Twickenham on November 15, 2008 in London, England.
Vickery (centre) and his front row colleagues Lee Mears and Andrew Sheridan came up short against the Wallabies at Twickenham © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Phil Vickery
Teams: England

Phil Vickery has urged team manager Martin Johnson to stick by his new England side even though he admitted the 28-14 defeat against Australia at Twickenham was "unacceptable".

The veteran prop had been restored to Saturday's starting line-up in a bid to recreate the scrummaging dominance which was key to England demolishing the Australians in the World Cup quarter-final in Marseille last year. Instead, Vickery and fellow prop Andrew Sheridan were frustrated by Australian spoiling tactics which saw scrums persistently collapse, England giving away a string of penalties and even suffering the indignity of being pushed off one of their own scrummages.

Yet Vickery, England's only survivor from the triumphant 2003 World Cup team which beat Australia in the final in Sydney, was adamant that Johnson has a team which given patience is capable of making their own slice of rugby history. He said: "It's about getting the right balance. You don't suddenly develop a Neil Back, a Richard Hill, a Martin Johnson, a Jason Leonard or a Lawrence Dallaglio. It takes a bit of time.

"Potentially the guys in this squad are going to be great players for England. I hope Johnno sticks with and shows faith in a lot of the guys because they deserve it. At times there were some fantastic things happening out there. It was exciting to be involved. We looked knackered, but when you looked at their guys it made us feel better, so we must have been doing something right.

"You couldn't fault anyone for effort and endeavour, but it doesn't make up for the fact that we were found wanting."

Not that it was all doom and gloom.

The backs had their moments. There were a couple of dynamic breaks from Danny Cipriani, some penetrative running from Riki Flutey and some more solid fullback play from Delon Armitage. Cipriani's kicking and decision-making, however, lacked the authority of a world class fly-half while England's work at the breakdown was messy, delivering too much slow ball as they had done a week before against the Pacific Islanders.

Meanwhile, the performance of the pack and the scrum in particular will have to improve immensely if England are to be competitive against South Africa next week and New Zealand a week later. Vickery said: "It's very disappointing. It's an area of the game we pride ourselves on. They slowed the game down. As a pack and as a rugby playing nation sometimes we are a bit too squeaky (clean). We came up against something we are not really used to and we struggled to deal with it. We were given a good lesson."

It was an honest assessment from England's former captain and Johnson will have some big calls to make when he views the video. Ironically, one of them might well be to start with Matt Stevens, who came on for Vickery and immediately had a constructive influence.

The darting form of hooker Lee Mears in the loose was another positive, but the overriding after-taste was ill-discipline. England, who saw six penalties converted by Matt Giteau and one by Stirling Mortlock, were green. Not an accusation aimed at too many sides associated with Johnson. "We just have to be a bit smarter," said Vickery. "We've been beaten by 14 points and that's unacceptable. The Springboks will have seen what has happened here and be looking forward to playing us."

Yet Vickery believes Johnson must play the long game and back his players in a mood of adventure. He added: "If we have ambitions to become one of the best teams in world rugby you can't afford to go into your shell. You have to put yourself in some awkward positions. On the way you'll get some bumps, but I see an exciting group of guys. We'd love for it to work right away. It hasn't happened, but there was a lot of good out there."

© Scrum.com

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