Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Johnson eyes revenge

Martin Johnson

England manager Martin Johnson is still haunted by the memories of last year's defeat to France in Paris - and he wants revenge.

Although England's performance that night proved to be a watershed in the development of his young side, Johnson reflects on the 12-10 defeat as the most disappointing of his coaching career.

"Our guys gave a good account of themselves last year. We got ourselves in a position where we could have won that Test match and we didn't," Johnson reflected. "It was a really, really disappointing game to lose. I mean a very, very disappointing game to lose when you think we had done what we did in their stadium, against the Grand Slam champions."

He added: "It was my most disappointing defeat. There were some real disappointing calls that changed the game fundamentally.

"Afterwards, the players are back at their clubs getting ready for the next game. We are sitting there thinking 'if only'.

"That is the difficult thing for us. Once it is done on Monday morning it is a quiet place. Who says I am over it?"

England are in a far better place now and those improvements date back to that night in Paris, when Johnson sent out a team invigorated by new blood and bolder ambition.

Toby Flood replaced Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half. Chris Ashton and Ben Foden made their Test debuts and Tom Palmer kick-started his stuttering international career.

"We will go out and give it an absolute crack. The good thing with these lads is they will go out and play," Johnson said. "Over the last 18 months we have had a group of young players who have forced their way into the team, they have had their opportunities to play and taken them.

"The form and consistency has improved and you start getting some of the good things that happened last week and the week before (against Wales and Italy). France have a very good all-round game and are dangerous but we back ourselves as well. You want to be in the headlines and hopefully we can do that with our performance on Saturday."