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Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Sunday, 22 March 2009

England must be fitter - Johnson


Johnson pleased with England victory

By Ben Dirs
BBC Sport at Twickenham

Manager Martin Johnson says England must improve their fitness levels if they are to compete with the world's best sides.

Johnson's side beat Scotland 26-12 in their final Six Nations game to match last-year's second-place finish.

"Our guys are fit, but there's fit to play in the Premiership and Europe and there's the fitness to try and beat the best teams in the world," said Johnson.

"The southern hemisphere sides are fitter and can play at a high tempo."

England were beaten 28-14 by Australia, 42-6 by South Africa and 32-6 by New Zealand at Twickenham in the autumn.

But three home victories over Italy, France and Scotland in the Six Nations saw them finish above France and Wales on points difference.

"Some guys [in the England team] are there [in terms of fitness], some guys aren't because they don't know what it takes, they've only come into international rugby this year," Johnson said. "But now they know what it does take.

I always said that there was something there in this squad and it's really starting to come together now

Martin Johnson

"You saw two very tired teams at the end [between England and Scotland] and whoever can be thinking and acting on their feet in the last 15 minutes is going to win those games.

"We cannot claim to be as good as the southern hemisphere sides at the moment, we can only do that when we start winning games against them."

Despite his admission that northern hemisphere sides still have a lot of work to do to match their southern rivals, Johnson said that his first Six Nations in charge of England had been a "very, very good tournament quality-wise".

"[British and Irish Lions head coach] Ian McGeechan has got real good players to pick a series-winning squad from," said Johnson, who toured with the Lions on three occasions in 1993, 1997 and 2001.

"In some areas he's got some really tough choices, in some areas it's a little bit thinner, but he'll get a top squad out there.


"Two weeks ago there were articles saying how small the England contingent will be, but then we beat France.

"There are lots of guys who have put themselves into contention. A lot of our guys have put their hands up for the tour."

Meanwhile, Calcutta Cup man-of-the-match Riki Flutey said he had been impressed with Johnson's impact in what was his first Six Nations campaign in charge.

"Johnno has been fantastic, he's our leader and everyone looks up to him," said Flutey.

"He's got a fantastic support team around him and we're learning something every day. It's nice to be going to training at this level and learning stuff.

"I always said that there was something there in this squad and it's really starting to come together now."

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see also
England display satisfies Johnson
21 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
England 26-12 Scotland
21 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
England 34-10 France
15 Mar 09 |  Rugby Union
Ireland 14-13 England
28 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
Wales 23-15 England
14 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 36-11 Italy
07 Feb 09 |  Rugby Union
England 24-36 New Zealand
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby League
England 6-42 South Africa
22 Nov 08 |  English
England 14-28 Australia
15 Nov 08 |  English

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