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Page last updated at 11:03 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

Martin Johnson ponders England approach

Keith Earls

Highlights - England 16-20 Ireland

England manager Martin Johnson believes his side tried to run the ball too much in their 20-16 defeat by Ireland.

After beating Italy 17-12 two weeks ago England were criticised for relying on a kicking game, but Johnson fears they may now have overcompensated.

"Maybe we did try and play a little too much when we had lost momentum and Ireland will turn you over when you try to do that," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"You have to play the game in front of you and the game was wet and muddy."

England had a 60% share of possession and passed the ball 140 times compared to Ireland's 58, but were still outscored three tries to one.

Johnson denied that fly-half Jonny Wilkinson was to blame for his side's lack of cutting edge.

'Tough loss' hard to take for Johnson

"Some of his critics may have their own agenda and others, who don't know too much, have jumped on it," Johnson told 5 live's Sportsweek.

"I don't have to defend Jonny Wilkinson in the world of rugby. He does what he does and he does it tremendously well.

"There are lots of good things we did yesterday, that's the key thing. We didn't finish them all off again and that ultimately cost us the game."

Wilkinson's drop-goal with nine minutes to go put England ahead for the first time but Tommy Bowe's second try of the match sealed Ireland's victory.

"It's hard when there are six minutes on the clock, you're there and you lose," said Johnson.

Proud Kidney salutes Ireland's team effort

"We didn't help ourselves - when you get ahead you need to stay there, the game turns on those things. It was good play from them and not good defence from us."

Johnson described the game, played in poor weather conditions, as "typical Six Nations, pretty attritional," and said occasionally England needed to be more clinical.

"Maybe we should have pegged them back and put them under pressure, it comes back to the same old things - if you take chances and score tries you'll probably end up winning," he said.

If England had a point to prove after their unimpressive victory over Italy last time out, then Ireland had even more to make up for after their drubbing by France in Paris.

And coach Declan Kidney said he was delighted by how his players had put that performance behind them.

"I'm hugely proud, I've got the same feeling we had at the end of last year's championship," he told BBC Sport.

"We can be hard on ourselves and we're lacking a bit of belief - I'm not sure why, but we responded better. The difference between today and Paris was we took our opportunities today."


He also ruled out any worries over the health of Brian O'Driscoll, after the centre was taken off with 10 minutes remaining after being struck on the head by the knee of team-mate Paul O'Connell.

"It was nothing - he was out on the pitch at the end. He's good and is enjoying the win as much as anyone," said Kidney.

"Brian just felt he should make Paul do the press conference to make up for him giving him a bang on the head with his knee.

"There's no risk of concussion. He's fine."

Ireland put in a remarkable 99 tackles, missing just one, and lock O'Connell said he felt both sides played as if they wanted to make amends for their most recent performances.

"I think both teams were looking to respond," he said.

"I don't think England were happy [after the Italy game] and lots of questions were asked of us [after the France game].

"Conditions were not suited to running rugby, especially in the first half, but our defence held firm and apart from that try they scored our defence was fairly comfortable.

"England are such a tough team to play against, it doesn't matter whether they're on top of the world or not doing so well, they're an incredibly physical side to play against."

Ireland's man-of-the-match Jamie Heaslip concurred with O'Connell.

Delighted O'Connell praises Ireland's defence

"We've come back from deficits before, especially in the second half and we showed belief and confidence in each other's abilities," he said.

"We got a good try and closed the game out well - England had good time on the ball and played territory well but I suppose we took our chances. The scoreboard reflects the game.

"We looked at the France game and thought we didn't take our opportunities, today we did.

"We had no doubts about what we could do, for an Ireland fan it's not that hard to get motivated for an England game, especially here at Twickenham."

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see also
Ireland dedicate victory to Hayes
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England 16-20 Ireland
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England v Ireland match stats
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations photos
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Six Nations as it happened
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Jeremy Guscott's tactical view
26 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Johnson demands more from England
26 Feb 10 |  English
England unchanged for Irish clash
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Sexton handed Irish fly-half spot
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Italy 12-17 England
14 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England 30-17 Wales
06 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union

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