Martin Johnson refused to talk about a possible Grand Slam on Saturday despite England having played three and won three games so far in the RBS 6 Nations. England ground out a 17-9 win over Les Bleus at Twickenham, and manager Johnson is delighted with the progress his team has made since the corresponding fixture 12 months ago. But talk in his dressing room will go no further than the next round of matches, in which they face Scotland in the Calcutta Cup.
“Talking about winning the Grand Slam would only be setting ourselves up for a fall,” said Johnson. “If you want to win things, talk about it only after the last game. At this stage we have to concentrate on Scotland.”
The scores were level at 9-9 at half-time, largely thanks to England’s mistakes in the first half, but Johnson was pleased with the level of maturity the side showed to bounce back in the second half for the win. Ben Foden’s try in the 42nd minute showed England’s intent after the break, and France failed to score at all in the second half.
“The good thing is if you’re not playing well you need to sort it out, and they did that,” continued Johnson. “The guys were very calm at half time. Sometimes you need to fight and graft it out. We got over our mistakes and they didn’t kill us, and that shows the growing maturity of the team.”
Stand-in skipper Mike Tindall has come under fire for his performances so far in the tournament, yet he is enjoying England’s new-found winning form.
“It was a good, old-fashioned physical battle,” said Tindall. “The conditions weren’t good for handling but a good sign of progression was how calm the team were at half-time.
“In every game you want a good performance but that’s not always realistic in Test rugby,” continued Tindall. “We lost control a bit in the first half and in that sense the game was a good comparison with South Africa (who beat England in November), but we have progressed since then.”
England will be watching closely tomorrow as Scotland host Ireland at Murrayfield, as the Scots come to HQ in two weeks time, before they travel to Dublin for the final round of the championship, where they will hope to seal their first Grand Slam since 2003.