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Page last updated at 19:27 GMT, Saturday, 8 November 2008

Johnson praises England debutants


Martin Johnson will look for improvements against Australia

Martin Johnson praised the part played by England's five debutants in the 39-13 win over the Pacific Islanders.

Delon Armitage, Riki Flutey, Ugo Monye and Nick Kennedy started, while Dylan Hartley made his debut from the bench.

"The five new caps did well and Delon was outstanding," said England manager Johnson, with full-back Armitage picking up the man-of-the-match award.

"There was a lot of hoopla around this being my first game, but hopefully this will die down," added Johnson.

The home side scored in the first half through tries from Paul Sackey and Danny Cipriani before Kennedy, Lee Mears and Sackey again went over in the second period following an edgy start by England at Twickenham.

I'm lost for words to be honest. Today has been just brilliant - a dream come true

Delon Armitage
"We came out and looked a little bit anxious and nervous," said Johnson.

"It was a bit stop-start and we were a little bit tentative, which was understandable."

England were ahead 20-10 at half-time, but Johnson told his team to produce a more controlled performance in the second half.

"There was a bit of frustration creeping in during the first half when we played most of the rugby in our own half.

"We said at half-time to control the ball more. We could have got the ball away faster sometimes."

The former England captain also acknowledged his team will face sterner challenges when they come up against Australia next weekend and then South Africa and New Zealand in the coming weeks.

"There were areas of the game where we need to improve a lot," said Johnson.

"We have got an exciting young team. It's inexperienced, there are not a huge amount of caps out there.

"At the end of this series, we will be a far more experienced side and we will learn along the way.

"There's lots to talk about before Australia next Saturday, but this is the team's first game together."

England's new attack coach Brian Smith, Armitage's former coach at London Irish, was also pleased with the way the backs tried to implement his philosophy.

"I thought the back three were outstanding and at times nine and 10 were terrific, at others a bit disjointed, but this is their first game game together," said the Australian.

Nick Kennedy scores for England
Debutant Nick Kennedy went over for England in the second half
"We did get into a period when we needed to pick up the tempo but we know how we can go from here and now we've got some tangibles to chew over."

A delighted Armitage said: "I'm lost for words to be honest. Today has been just brilliant - a dream come true.

"I always wanted to play for England and show what I can do in front of a big crowd. For the first five or 10 minutes I was a bit shaky - but then I got into the game and started to enjoy it.

"I'm just upset the game went so quickly - it was a great game - the Islanders attacked really well and I enjoyed every minute. We're proud to concede just one try against a really good attacking team."

His team-mate Kennedy added: "This is even better than when I dreamt about it because I didn't score in the dream."

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see also
Johnson passes first test
08 Nov 08 |  English
England 39-13 Pacific Islanders
08 Nov 08 |  English
Autumn internationals - as it happened
08 Nov 08 |  Rugby Union
International photos
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Intensive Care the cure for England?
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England call up uncapped quartet
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Pick your England XV
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Jeremy Guscott column
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No fears over Hartley - Johnson
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Rugby union on the BBC
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