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RWC 2003 reaction – Johnson demands improvement after Samoa scare

28 October 2013

  • “Too many mistakes,” says England skipper Martin Johnson
  • “We had belief in ourselves that we could do a job for our country” – Semo Sititi

Martin Johnson believes his side are making far too many mistakes and says an unconvincing 35-22 win over Samoa is proof that England must improve hugely if they are to mount a serious challenge for the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

Lawrence Dallaglio carries

Photo: Getty Images

Johnson and his teammates found themselves under massive pressure throughout their Pool C tie against the Paicific Islanders, only pulling away with Phil Vickery’s try in the final stages.

And the Leicester Tigers lock stressed that some elementary errors – such as indiscipline at the breakdown – could cost England later in the tournament.

“I thought they played fantastically well,” he said. “There was only one team on the park for the first 20 minutes – we hardly touched the ball.

“We battled in the second half – I always thought we were going to come back and win but there were too many mistakes from us overall. The way we are going, we’re not looking like favourites to win next week, never mind in a quarter final.

“Credit to them, they could have beaten us – it’s as simple as that. We’ve got to have a look at ourselves because that’s not going to win anything.”

Ben Kay jumps for a lineout

Photo: Getty Images

Unlike his skipper, coach Clive Woodward refused to dwell for too long on the negative aspects of a rather disjointed performance, instead praising England for their perseverance in the face of a hugely spirited effort from Samoa.

“It was a major scare but the only team that didn’t underestimate Samoa was England – we saw them play in the first two games and they have some outstanding players,” he explained.

“That’s why I picked a strong side. People were saying we should have rested players – I was never going to rest anyone.”

“We’ll learn a bit from this – it was a great Test match. After 20 minutes, they had about 90 per cent possession. We got pinged a lot, so we’ll look at the penalty count as well.

“But we’ve won the game. This is a tough World Cup and we won reasonably well in the end.”

Semo Sititi

Photo: Getty Images

Semo Sititi, Samoa’s No. 8 and captain – who finished off a truly phenomenal attack to put his team 10-0 up after just four minutes – was magnanimous, humble and deeply proud despite the loss.

“I said in an interview before – we’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to compete. We have a lot of respect for these English boys, because they are a really balanced team. They are very mobile and have some quality players who are really professional.

“We’re pleased to play against this top team, but I’m really proud of my boys. They put up their hands and proved themselves. We had belief in ourselves that we could do a job for our country.”

Coach John Boe reiterated that same sense of achievement in a very commendable showing.

He said: “There was not lack of commitment but in the end we just couldn’t hang on against the number one team in the world. That’s no disgrace.”

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the 2003 Rugby World Cup win, is posting highlights and reaction from each of England's matches. On Friday, head here for highlights from the Pool C match against Uruguay.