Lawrence Dallaglio, the England captain, did allow himself a small smile before saying: "We need to improve. We have two more games to do that before we face a thorough examination Down Under against New Zealand in the summer. We all feel we have a long way to go because we want to be the best."
The coach, Clive Woodward, reached for the cold water immediately. "That was a good result, but I have to say that the result against France still rankles. It was good to see the senior players accepting that they had all played absolute crap in Paris. There were times today when our players looked tired, and they lost ball on contact. We were nowhere near competing on the same level as the southern hemisphere on this performance."
But at least the basics were right. Jerry Guscott, playing in his 50th international, said: "I think I probably got more touches in this game than I have had in my previous 49. These are happy days. At the moment it's great to play in a side as adventurous as this. It's a joy to be a part of it."
Guscott and his centre partner Will Greenwood had the pleasure of getting the better of their opposite numbers, the feared partnership of Scott Gibbs and Allan Bateman. The latter did manage to score two tries, but Guscott said: "I really enjoyed this afternoon's confrontation in the middle of the field. Especially as it looked at one point as if they were going to run away with it."
Wales did not, of course, and for that Guscott and Co know they have the forwards to thank, as Woodward acknowledged: "The pack were outstanding. It was all down to the forwards."
The England scrum creaked initially, but crucially it never cracked. The debutant Phil Vickery had warned beforehand that at 21 he still had something to learn about propping technique on the tight-head side. His inexperience showed at times and Wales were quick to target him. At times the Welsh would drive on the left shoulder in an attempt to put the squeeze on the Gloucester youngster, but the England front row stood firm and gradually battled back.
After a memorable 57 minutes a slightly tired Vickery was hauled off. He said later: "I don't think I will ever forget this for the rest of my life. It was a fantastic experience. Jason Leonard had told me just to run myself into the ground and in the first half there were a couple of moments when I thought I was going to collapse."
However, his day was marred when he was later cited by Wales for allegedly punching Colin Charvis.
Richard Cockerill's accuracy at the line-out aided the England cause. So much so that they became a procession with Martin Johnson and Garath Archer helping themselves almost unhindered.
In the loose it was Wales who set off like heavyweight hounds from the traps. Early on the human avalanche of Scott Quinnell and Colin Charvis rumbled into the white wall of English shirts. The lines of running by Martyn Williams caused a few flutters but generally Messrs Hill, Dallaglio and Back were the equal of it all.
Woodward's counterpart, Kevin Bowring, said: "I'm pleased that we scored four tries. It is rare to come to Twickenham, do that and lose. England have answered their critics. We were beaten by a better side. That middle period produced a purple patch. I think our defence let us down and our discipline was not too good."Reuse content