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England can improve by 30% says captain Lewis Moody

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Johnson plays down impact of referee

England captain Lewis Moody says the team can improve by 30% after they ended a lacklustre Six Nations campaign with a much-improved display in Paris.

France sealed a Grand Slam with their 12-10 win, but England's performance offered some signs of encouragement.

"The guys played some good rugby in defeat but knowing this team still has another 30% to give fills me with confidence for the future," said Moody.

"This team knows where it has to go now and I think that showed on the pitch."

Moody, who led the side for the first time in the absence of the injured Steve Borthwick, believes England's improved showing in Paris highlighted what they could have achieved in this year's tournament.

"We started off well against Wales; unfortunately we just didn't keep that momentum going and if we had done we would probably have been competing for a Grand Slam against France.

I thought we played a lot of rugby but unfortunately we just couldn't finish it off

England captain Lewis Moody

"We only lost to Ireland in the last couple of minutes and we drew against Scotland in a game we should have won so it was all there for us," Moody told BBC 5 live's Sportsweek programme.

"We know how much it has got to hurt on the pitch and I know as a player how much this team still has left to give. The guys have played some good rugby but we came off on the losing side so I am still as frustrated as ever at having lost.

"But I couldn't have asked any more of the team, we put every bit of ourselves into that game.

"We kept them at bay all day, they never posed much of a threat in attack. I thought we played a lot of rugby but unfortunately we just couldn't finish it off."

In the immediate aftermath of the game, Moody refused to blame referee Bryce Lawrence for England's defeat, despite manager Martin Johnson remonstrating with the New Zealand official at half-time and at the end of the match.

"There seemed to be a differing number of penalties going against us - scrums, clear-outs at the breakdown, but that's the way it is," Moody told BBC Sport.

"You never blame the referee. It was our game to win, not his. We just have to be more clinical."

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Johnson said he was seeking "clarification" about Lawrence's decision-making processes during his conversations with the referee.

"He was very quick to penalise us if we were wrong, which was fine, but he had to penalise them first time," he said.

"One [scrum] was reset and then they kicked the three points just before half-time; I just asked him why he didn't penalise them.

"But it doesn't matter what I think, he refs the game, his decision is final."

Johnson started with Toby Flood at fly-half after dropping Jonny Wilkinson to the bench and brought in Ben Foden for his first start at full-back and wing Chris Ashton for his Test debut.

Foden gave the visitors the ideal start when he finished off a superb move in the left corner from Ashton's smart pass in the sixth minute, after Flood - with the returning Mike Tindall also shining at centre - got his backline firing.

However, Johnson said the improved attacking display was not down to his team selection.

Ben Foden played fantastically well and Chris Ashton did well as well

England manager Martin Johnson

"It wasn't a team transformed," he said. "We said all the way through that if we got our execution right, those chances have been there all tournament. When you don't take them and talk about it and lose, it's not good.

"A couple of times this year we haven't backed our hands under pressure and didn't score.

"I thought the coaches did a great job of calling the game. We knew if we got outside [Mathieu] Bastareaud we could get round them on the flanks. That was there early on when we scored the try.

"I thought some guys really came of age. Ben Foden played fantastically well and Chris Ashton did well as well. We made our calls - we put Jonny on the bench for exactly that, to kick a penalty like that and hopefully win a tight game with a penalty or drop-goal.

"They were getting very nervous and at 12-10 it looked like that might happen. Tactically in the second half we were far better and played the majority of the game in their half."

England might have applied further pressure to the hosts early in the second half but Ashton, with only Clement Poitrenaud ahead of him and Riki Flutey up in support, opted to kick ahead to waste a golden try-scoring opportunity.

"It's so frustrating, we were so near," Moody added. "It was a good performance by France but we should have finished them off.

"France have been the most consistent team of the tournament, they are deserved winners. But I'm very proud of the boys, they worked their socks off.

"The penalty count probably cost us, I'm bitterly disappointed. To come off the field with a loss is painful."



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see also
Lievremont praises brave French
20 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
France 12-10 England
20 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
France v England match stats
31 Jan 08 |  Rugby Union
France v England photos
20 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Moody takes over from Borthwick
19 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
Scotland 15-15 England
13 Mar 10 |  Rugby Union
England 16-20 Ireland
27 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment


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