England 26-12 Scotland, Six Nations Championship, March 21
Johnson refuses to get carried away
March 22, 2009
England's Ugo Monye celebrates with team mate Mark Cueto, England v Scotland, Six Nations Championship, Twickenham, England, March 21, 2009
England wing Ugo Monye celebrates scoring his first try for England during the clash with Scotland at Twickenham © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Martin Johnson | Ugo Monye
Tournaments/Tours: Six Nations
Teams: England

England boss Martin Johnson has demanded his side raise the bar once more if they want to compete with the best sides in the world.

England finished second in the Six Nation table - equalling their best result since the 2003 Grand Slam triumph - after a 26-12 Calcutta Cup victory over Scotland. Their third victory of the campaign saw them claim the runners-up spot behind Grand Slam champions Ireland and their three-try haul against the Scots saw took their Championship leading tally to 16.

But Johnson sent his men back to their clubs today demanding this must only be the start with his chief concern fitness levels within the squad.

"We have won consecutive games. Nobody is getting carried away with it," said Johnson. "There are lots of improvements we can make with players fitness-wise. We can improve there certainly if we want to compete with the best in the world.

"The guys are fit - but there's being fit to play in the Premiership and Six Nations and fit to try to beat the best teams in the world. That's what we need to get to. Some guys are there and some guys aren't because they didn't know what it takes. They have only come into international rugby this year.

"Now they do know what it's all about. They need to be realistic and set their targets higher. Yesterday we saw two very tired teams and it's thinking on your feet in the last 15 minutes that's going to win games.

"We would all like to be in the deciding game of the championship every year - that is what the tournament is about but we have not been quite good enough this year. To be successful we need a group that is in good shape so any player who wants to break into that squad needs to set high standards.

"You have got to be up there with the best in all areas of the game - skill, technique, tactics, fitness. If you want to get better you have to raise the bar."

It was a typically matter-of-fact assesment of England's campaign from Johnson, who was under pressure after a laboured opening win against Italy and successive away defeats to Wales and Ireland. But England responded in emphatic fashion with a 34-10 victory over France before sealing second place by regaining the Calcutta Cup from Scotland.

"You have to go through those ups and downs. We had to get better and we have started doing that," said Johnson. "The group is coming together as a whole. We've been through some big experiences this Six Nations away at Cardiff and Dublin and the game here against the French. Quite a few guys have taken big steps this year. It bodes well for the future."

The immediate future for England is a two-Test summer series against Argentina when Johnson is likely to be without more of his leading players than anyone would have expected even a month ago.

"I think a lot of our guys have put their hand up for the Lions tour," he said. "I'd rather have my players gain the experience of a Lions tour. We'll go to Argentina with what's left. We've got a tough tour, which I think is great. It will give some guys the opportunity with others away and Argentina will be a real good test."

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