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Six Nations: Martin Johnson wants England to improve

Chris Ashton and Nick Easter

Highlights - England 59-13 Italy

Martin Johnson has warned England they must improve if they are to beat defending Six Nations champions France at Twickenham in their next match.

England ran in eight tries to defeat Italy 59-13 on Saturday and record their second win of the Championship.

But England manager Johnson said: "Do we have to do better in two weeks? Yes, of course we do. A lot, lot better.

"We have to control the ball better; we won't get the opportunities [against France] to score the tries we did."

However, Johnson, who was also critical of England's 26-19 victory against Wales last week, did have some positive words for his players, who recorded their biggest Six Nations win since demolishing Italy 80-23 in 2001.

Chris Ashton

Four-try Ashton 'honoured' with England record

"I was pretty pleased," he admitted. "We did what we said we were going to do - we should make it difficult for Italy when they come to Twickenham.

"When we played and executed well, we did make it difficult for them. When we didn't they got in the game."

Johnson had a wry smile on his face as he praised winger Chris Ashton, who scored four of England's tries.

He had looked on sternly as the winger celebrated his opening try with what is now his trademark 'swallow dive' despite being warned for his exuberant celebration after scoring in last week's win over Wales.

However the manager could not resist a chuckle after the former rugby league man flamboyantly dived over again for his fourth try.

"I thought he would at that point [when Ashton crossed over for the first try]," Johnson told BBC Sport after what was an impressively dynamic display from the hosts.

"The boys gave him a whole heap of grief when we walked into the changing room. It's OK, it's a bit of fun.


"The guys gave him the chances, Toby gave him the first chance and Banners [substitute Matt Banahan] did with the second. Chris is a finisher, like Mark [Cueto]."

And Ashton admitted he could not resist celebrating despite risking a ticking off

"I thought it was the right time to do it," he said.

"I knew he [Johnson] would be a bit annoyed - the lads said he would be - so I thought I'd do it."

Ashton will deservedly dominate the headlines after he became the first man to score four tries in a Six Nations match, and the first Englishman to do so in a Championship match since Ronald Poulton in 1914.

Indeed, the winger is the first Englishman to complete a hat-trick since Jamie Noon did so against Scotland in 2005 and in the process he took his tally for this year's tournament to six tries - equalling the record held by compatriot Will Greenwood and Wales' Shane Williams.

"It [breaking records] wasn't something I tried to do," added Ashton.

"I'm just glad to be in the team and I hope we carry on winning in the Six Nations. I'm glad Mark Cueto got his try as well.

"We know that [Grand Slam talk will increase] but we've just got to keep on practising as hard as we can and keep on doing our best."

Cueto ended his long wait for an international try when he crossed the line in what was an emphatic first-half performance, which included two Ashton tries and another from captain Mike Tindall.

Martin Johnson

Johnson happy but still eyes improvement

Ashton scored twice more after the break, and tries from Danny Care and James Haskell helped Johnson's men to their second victory on the trot in this year's championship.

Prop Andrew Sheridan pulled out of the Italy game on Friday because of a back injury, London Irish front rower Alex Corbisiero taking his place, although England expect him to be fit to face France.

Corbisiero celebrated his debut with the traditional song to his team-mates, although the 22-year-old put his own twist on proceedings by launching into a rap.

And he says that he was delighted with his first appearance for the national team.

"It was an amazing experience. It means a lot playing for your country. It was a great feeling - a real dream to be out there," he said.

"They didn't make the decision I was playing until Friday morning. It was probably easier just getting chucked in than having a long build-up and having it dwell on your mind a bit.

"There weren't many scrums but I thought the set-piece was really good for us. We contested really well in the lineout well and I just got on with what I needed to do around the park.

"There is a lot of trust in the team. The boys trust each other to do their own role and that leaves you with a clear head to do your job. We were on the front foot and playing great rugby."

Italy posed few problems, even though they did break the English defence when replacement hooker Fabio Ongaro went over the line with 10 minutes remaining.

Visiting coach Nick Mallett admitted England were helped by some poor defending.

"Our line-out didn't function at all," Mallett told BBC Sport. "For some reason the calls were poor and when you're under pressure like we were you give away penalties and yellow cards.

"It was a very poor day at the office for Italy. The massive difference between the two teams was the speed, the speed of Ashton, Cueto, Care and Ben Youngs.

"We were really struggling to catch up with them and a lot of our defence tackles weren't good. It was a hard afternoon.

"England played well but a lot of them were off Italian mistakes, they were helped by some poor defence by my players."

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see also
Ashton 'swallow dives' to opening try
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England 59-13 Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Mallett disappointed with 'poor' Italy
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England v Italy photos
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
England v Italy stats
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations as it happened
12 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Ashton rebuked after England win
09 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Wales 19-26 England
04 Feb 11 |  Rugby Union
Six Nations table
10 Aug 06 |  Tables

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