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Johnson: Just win

Martin Johnson has ordered England to forget about showing they are potential World Cup winners in their tournament opener, saying: "Just win the game."

Johnson's men were en route to New Zealand on Tuesday morning for what they hope will be a near two-month stay but they could just as easily be on course for an early flight home if they lose their Pool B clash with Argentina.

Johnson, who watched 2007 host France lose the opening game of the competition to the Pumas, said: "The psychology of the game was massive. As I said at the time, all you have got to do is just win. The whole thing was starting in their country and there was huge pressure on them to lay a marker down or make a statement."

Johnson, who led England to World Cup glory four years earlier, added: "When we beat South Africa in 2003, that was the most pressurised game and we beat them by 17 points and everyone said that wasn't very good. I would have taken winning by one point. If you win by a point, you are still in there fighting."

Such a pragmatic approach may not endear England to the rugby purists of the host nation.

But Johnson said: "World Cups are about handling the pressure and performing over a long period of time and not getting distracted with what people say. When you get down to it, they are still games of rugby that need to be won like any games of rugby."

Captain Lewis Moody, who was expected to be fit for the Argentina game despite seeing his international year decimated by injury, was loath to look beyond the tournament opener.

"Our prospects are very good but, as you well know, World Cups are the toughest environments," he said. "As shown in 2007 and previous World Cups, a team can come and cause an upset. You can't look past anything. You focus on the games in your pool and winning those.

"It is very sad and boring, I know, but it is the truth and as a player, you focus your attention purely on Argentina from now on. They are a tough team - they will demand the utmost respect from us and we have to be right on our game for that first challenge."

All but one of Johnson's 30-man squad were on the team plane last on Tuesday night, with veteran lock Simon Shaw left behind while he recovered from a sickness bug. England's other injured players were all expected to train ahead of the Argentina game.


From Belfast Telegraph