Johnson tells players they must improve

MARTIN JOHNSON has warned that England will be in “big trouble” if they fail to improve before New Zealand arrive at Twickenham for the final Investec Challenge clash of the autumn next Saturday.

There was precious little for the 78,000 crowd to cheer in Saturday’s dismal win over Argentina – in fact they booed and jeered – and the only crumb of comfort for a frustrated Johnson was the result.

Usually that is all that matters but Johnson knows the battle-hardened All Blacks will punish England’s myriad of mistakes far more ruthlessly than an Argentina side who had only been together for six days.

Matt Banahan eventually scored the decisive try with 10 minutes remaining after England’s one quality attack in an otherwise turgid performance devoid of wit, ingenuity and confidence.

Based on their performances against Australia and Argentina, many would argue England have regressed.

Johnson and his under-pressure coaching team must somehow inspire a transformation in the space of six days if England are to avoid another hammering from the All Blacks.

Twelve months ago New Zealand romped to a record 32-6 victory at Twickenham and Johnson said: “If the All Blacks are anything they are consistent in their performance and so we need to be a lot, lot better.

“If we make those same mistakes we will be in big trouble. It was a tough game to watch. It was frustrating for all of us. We have to get them back up for next week.

“Fear is always there, it is (about) what you turn that into and we need to turn that into a spirited display against the All Blacks. The guys need to trust themselves a lot more.

“For all the things we didn’t do well against Argentina we ultimately won. I would take those mistakes with a win next week, but I don’t think that will happen.”

Johnson has always refused to use England’s injury crisis as any kind of excuse for the fact his side still languish eighth in the world.

Argentina were missing five key players themselves but it was they who played the smarter rugby.

The predicted torrential rain held off but the wind whipped around Twickenham and England did not cope well in a disjointed first half.

Argentina peppered Ugo Monye with high balls and his inexperience as a stand-in full-back was cruelly exposed.

England went into the break at 9-9, with sections of the crowd booing them down the tunnel after an error-strewn first half and Johnson concerned his side were about to implode.

“It was a long 80 minutes to watch, I have probably aged 20 years, but we won the game. If we had lost it would have been even worse.”

Wilkinson scored England’s first-half points with a drop-goal and two penalties but missed three second-half attempts and Argentina’s Martin Rodriguez was similarly wayward.

The scores remained locked at 9-9 until the 70-minute mark when England finally conjured their opportunity. James Haskell made a half-break, off-loaded to Borthwick and slick handling transferred the ball wide for Banahan to cross in the corner.

Even then, the game was not over. Argentina piled forward in search of a draw and four times they were penalised on the England line before referee Nigel Owens blew for full time.

Scorers for England: M Banahan try; J Wilkinson con, 2 pens, drp gl.

Scorers for Argentina: M Rodriguez 3 pens.

ENGLAND: U Monye; M Cueto, D Hipkiss, S Geraghty, M Banahan; J Wilkinson, P Hodgson; T Payne, D Hartley, D Bell; L Deacon, S Borthwick (capt); T Croft, L Moody, J Haskell.

Replacements: A Goode for Wilkinson (75), D Care for Hodgson (75), P Doran-Jones for Payne (63), S Thompson for Hartley (69), J Worsley for Croft (63).

ARGENTINA: H Agulla; L Borges, G Tiesi, M Rodriguez, M Comuzzi; S Fernandez, A Lalanne; R Roncero, M Ledesma, M Scelzo; E Lozada, P Albacete; T Leonardi, A Abadie, J Fernandez Lobbe (capt).

Replacements: A Figuerola for Lalanne (75), M Ayerza for Scelzo (67), M Carizza for Lozada (56), A Campos for Abadie (34).

Referee: Nigel Owens (WRFU).

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