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Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Saturday, 7 February 2009

We must improve, admits Johnson


Plenty of room for improvement - Johnson

Martin Johnson admitted England need to improve from their performance against Italy when they face Wales in Cardiff in the Six Nations next Saturday.

England beat Italy 36-11 in the first match of the 2009 tournament but it was a hugely flattering scoreline.

It was their second win in seven games and the England boss admitted "it is nice to be in a winning changing room".

"The next place we go is Cardiff. It will be volatile and hostile and we need to improve," added Johnson.

A couple of times we were a little bit over zealous and trying a little bit too hard

Steve Borthwick
"We were sometimes going off-plan and doing things we especially said not to do against this team.

"We didn't want guys picking and going around the edges against Italy because it is an area they defend best.

"When you are trying to execute it just takes one thing to throw it off. Mark Cueto's try was a good example of execution. If you do lots of little things well you can score a try.

"There are things we need to put right and it is easier doing that when you have come off a game, things are far more relevant."

Italy's hopes were blown away inside the first half as three mistakes from stand-in scrum-half Mauro Bergamasco led to England tries.

Italy boss Nick Mallet admitted he had made a mistake in picking the flanker at scrum-half, although he insisted that with his three leading scrum-halves all injured he had few other options available to him.

Bergamasco was replaced at half-time, although Mallet admitted: "I thought of replacing him after 25 minutes but out of respect I left him on the field.

"I wanted to see him in that position but he didn't have much time to prepare - it wasn't as though there were a lot of other options.

Mallett admits Bergamasco error

"Our problem is we still have three guys out - I'd like to calmly have a look at it and chat to Mauro, who is very disappointed himself.

"I said it was a very difficult ask to come out in that position - it was a mistake on my behalf."

England fly-half Andy Goode was the first to profit from a Bergamasco mistake as he claimed a second-minute try in his first game after a long absence, but in general his kicking was variable, both out of hand and off the deck.

"He made a good start. I thought he did pretty well," insisted Johnson.

"You can point to lots of areas where things didn't go right but he gave us direction and maturity. Overall I think he did well."

Harry Ellis was a late call-up at scrum-half in place of the injured Danny Care and he took his chance with two tries in a man-of-the-match display.

"To be honest I found it quite difficult," said Ellis. "One minute you're in the Saxons and then you're here, so it was quite difficult, but plying in front of this crowd was amazing and I've missed that feeling.


Despite his man-of-the-match award, Ellis believes there is plenty to improve in his game.

"I'm not really happy to be honest," he said. "I've got high standards and I need to try and improve for next week. It's been a while since I started for England and hopefully we'll have a good training run next week and put the wrongs right."

England captain Steve Borthwick believes Ellis's performance is testament to the strength of Johnson's squad.

"It shows the depth in the squad that a player of Danny Care's quality can get injured and Harry comes in and performs like that, and then Ben Foden comes on for his first cap and plays so well."

But Borthwick revealed he remains concerned by England's occasional lapses of indiscipline.

"We gave too many penalties away and two yellow cards and in close matches, we can't afford to do that. A couple of times we were a little bit over zealous and trying a little bit too hard."

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see also
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations as it happened
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England v Italy photos
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England v Italy match stats
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Review - 2008 Six Nations season
02 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Noon to replace injured Tindall
06 Feb 09 |  English
Jeremy Guscott column
03 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Bergamasco handed scrum-half role
04 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Axed Cipriani starts for Saxons
04 Feb 09 |  English
Nervous wait for England's newest star
30 Jan 09 |  Rugby Union

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