English Rugby
Johnson insists there a lot or work to do
March 26, 2009
England's coach Martin Johnson watches his side in action at Twickenham, England v France, Six Nations Championship, Twickenham, England, March 15, 2009
Johnson experienced a rollercoaster of emotions during this year's Six Nations © Getty Images
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England boss Martin Johnson admits his side are a long way from the finished article despite an impressive end to their Six Nations campaign.

A mauling at the hands of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the autumn and a disappointing start to the Six Nations saw England tumble to a worst-ever 8th place in the IRB world rankings but they rallied to claim second place in the battle for northern hemisphere supremacy.

But Johnson insists his side have a long way to go if they are to return to the top of the world. "There is no way we are anywhere near where we think we can get to as a group," he said. "You have to improve, you have to set new standards. In no way are we satisfied with what we've done. Sometimes it didn't feel like (we deserved) second place.

"We are just getting started and can improve on every area of what we do - on the field, tactically, with our skills and fitness. There are some guys who are where they need to be at a world-class level and some who aren't. Having a world-class level of fitness is a pre-requisite. Decision-making under pressure is more difficult when you are fatigued. Ireland won the Grand Slam by finding a way to win those close games.

"There are definitely improvements we can make in that area but we are further along the road. We have made big strides as a team in terms of what we're trying to do. We showed a large amount of improvement through the tournament. There is a lot more to come from that squad."

Johnson, whose side have notched just four wins from nine games since he took hands-on charge, was under growing pressure after an ill-disciplined England stumbled through the November internationals before a far from impressive win over Italy and successive defeats away to Wales and Ireland. But at no stage did Johnson regret his decision to take on the job and put his put his lofty reputation as World Cup-winning captain on the line.

"That's what it is about. You can live your life on a level playing field if you want but if you get involved in high-level sport you are going to get a kick in the nuts occasionally," he said. "That's what happens as a player, it's part of it. When you sit back and look at what we've been through I'm pretty proud of how we've handled ourselves because it's been tough at times.

"When we were heavily beaten at home to South Africa it was pretty difficult but things are never as bleak as people think they are. I was confident we had a good group of players who could bounce back. We kept faith with a core of guys who responded and never ever stopped working hard.

"It's why you get involved. Sitting in the changing rooms in Cardiff and Dublin is disappointing, but then you get the good times.

"You learn to deal with so many different responsibilities in terms of selection and things like that," said Johnson, who can hold up the likes of Delon Armitage and Riki Flutey, plus Joe Worsley's revival as his own personal success stories.

Johnson's next task will be to lead England into a two-Test summer series against Argentina without a number of leading players who will be on Lions duty - a challenge he believes will only help their climb up the rankings table.

"By the end of the summer they are going to have played the best teams in the world at least once and it's about us saying 'this is the standard and we need to push the boundaries in everything we do'," Johnson said. "Fitness is one area - but there are lots of areas we need to get better."

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