England 26-12 Scotland, Six Nations Championship, March 21
Lack of composure lost us title - Johnson
March 21, 2009
England Manager Martin Johnson reacts during his side's victory over Scotland at Twickenham © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson tonight blamed lack of composure in Cardiff and Dublin for England's failure to win the Six Nations title.
It was the same quality which Johnson said carried his side to a 26-12 victory over Scotland at Twickenham in their final game.
"The guys stuck in there. It got a bit nervous, but they kept their composure well," stated Johnson. "There were opportunities we missed - there always will be - and it was strange to have all the possession and the territory and lose the penalty count two to one. They kept pegging us back.
"We have scored 16 tries in the championship and it's a long time since we have scored that many. Overall we lost two away games to the teams playing for the championship by a combined nine points. "We are there or thereabouts. We created opportunities all tournament, but we didn't have enough composure to win those games. That's what needs to improve, but it's getting better and the effort has been fantastic. I couldn't ask for anything more.
"We've been through big experiences in Cardiff and Dublin and it bodes well for the future. Quite a few guys have taken big steps and you always have an eye on the bigger picture, which is the World Cup. I think we're moving in the right direction."
Johnson added, however, that the fitness levels of some players need to be better to take on the likes of South Africa and New Zealand, who hammered England in the autumn. "Our guys are fit, but you have to be fit enough to beat the best teams in the world. Some are there, but some now know what it takes. A lot of them have put themselves into real contention for the Lions, though."
Scotland head coach Frank Hadden's position has been speculated upon with his side again failing to meet the minimum objective of two wins set by his employers. "There will be a period of reflection and a review process," he said. "Half an hour after the game it's not something we've been thinking about. I could not have been more excited about the opportunity this week and it's a very flat changing room.
"After 70 minutes we were definitely in the game and felt we had a real opportunity to pull off a special win for our long-suffering supporters down here. Some elementary errors cost us dear and we're disappointed with the three tries conceded. We desperately wanted to do well and I feel we have made some progress, but you can't hide from the fact that we've not won enough games.
"But there is absolutely no doubt that it's got to be easier when you have the players for eight continuous weeks like England have, whereas our guys go back and forth."
Captain Mike Blair spoke up for Hadden and his coaching team. "I think Frank has done a terrific job with the resources he's got," said Blair. "We started at a low level against Wales and we talked about how hard it is to get momentum if you lose your first game.
"It's individual basic errors that lets opposition into the game and our players are 100% behind the current coaching regime. The supporters will be frustrated, but the players are a helluva lot more frustrated. Everybody is absolutely gutted."