Ireland defeat will make England stronger insists Toby Flood

Toby Flood insists England will emerge from the wreckage of their failed Grand Slam bid a stronger side.

England's hopes of an RBS 6 Nations clean sweep were crushed by Ireland, who stormed to a 24-8 victory at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.

Martin Johnson's men were crowned champions but the trophy was of scant consolation after such a disappointing performance and emphatic defeat.

"This will hurt for a long time," said the Leicester fly-half.

"Sometimes it is the darkest and difficult moments that bring you together. We will have to use this as a catalyst to drive us forward."

The squad need look no further than the likes of Johnson, Mike Tindall and Jonny Wilkinson for inspiration. They all experienced multiple Grand Slam failures before sealing the deal in 2003.

In 2000 and 2001, when Johnson was captain, England were crowned champions after losing Grand Slam deciders against Scotland and then Ireland. That team grew to become the best in the world.

This young England generation still boast huge potential but they were taught a brutal lesson by Ireland.

England will regroup in the summer for a training camp and three warm-up internationals before their next full-blown Test, against Argentina in the World Cup on September 10.

"I think we are in a pretty good place," Johnson said.

"The season has been good. If you had said at the start that we'd have been here in Ireland with a chance to win the Grand Slam and the championship we'd have been happy.

"A lot of our guys are playing a full season of international rugby for the first time and winning the championship is a heck of an achievement.

"It is a fantastic launch pad as we head towards the World Cup.

"My motivation is to do a good job for English rugby and make it what it can be.

"We should be a team that can compete with anyone in the world - that's what the goal is and we are getting closer to it.

"We got ourselves to 4-0 and could not quite finish it off. We will come back and be a better team the next time we play.

"This will keep us humble with our feet on the ground, there is no doubt about that. Games like this one reinforce to players what they need to do to get better."