Rugby World Cup 2011

Johnson defends bungee jump

2011-09-13 11:13
Martin Johnson (File)

Queenstown - England manager Martin Johnson offered a staunch defence of his rugby players on Tuesday, not only for their performance in beating Argentina but for taking on the daunting 134m Nevis bungee jump on their day off.

The British media mauled England for their ragged display in the 13-9 pool victory over the Pumas in Dunedin but Johnson was in no mood to apologise.

"If you look at the weekend's games, every winning coach said 'I'm glad to get the win but we have to improve' and every losing coach said 'it was so close' and I know where I'd rather be sitting," he told reporters at the team hotel.

"That was one of the best weekends of pool games in World Cup history, it's a battle and Saturday for us was a battle right to the end - you need to be there for the fight."

England were on the back foot and trailed 9-3 until replacement scrumhalf Ben Youngs scampered through for the only try of the match after 65 minutes as the last World Cup's runners-up eventually subdued its third-place finishers.

"There's been a bit of criticism gone around in the past about meaningless pool games but you saw what happened at the weekend," Johnson said.

"For some of our senior players, every game they've played in the last two World Cups they've been behind.

"These teams are well organised now, their players play professionally in Europe and they are in good programmes. It's not turn up and score 50, 60 points any more. It's harder than that.

"If you get to terms with that mentally - 'we're going to be in a battle and we need to fight for every inch' - you're in a good place because that's what we had to do on Saturday and that's what we need to do against Georgia.

"New Zealand had probably won their game by half-time but nobody else had. Look at Wales-South Africa, what a game that was. We've been telling you it's like this."

The England squad are spending a few days in Queenstown, New Zealand's stunning "adventure capital" and some of them took the chance to leap the 134m Nevis bungee jump, the country's highest.

Johnson, who has also done a bungee in the past, laughed off a question over its safety.

"What they do in training is far more dangerous," he said.

"It's a long tournament and we need a balance. We're in Queenstown and we've come for a reason.

"Nobody's been skiing: that's too risky, and clearly nobody would have done it if they had an injury but we've got a long week and we've been back training today for Sunday's game."

Johnson will be without Courtney Lawes for that match in Dunedin and the next against Romania after the lock was banned for two weeks on Tuesday for kneeing Argentina prop Mario Ledesma.

It is a punishment that the England camp will take in their stride, though, as they always planned to rest several first-choice players and ensure that everyone in the squad got some game time ahead of the knockout phase.

Flank and nominal captain Lewis Moody could be in line for his first appearance of the tournament on Sunday after recovering from a long-standing knee injury.

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