Johnson considers tour a success

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson will reflect on England's tour of Australia and New Zealand as a success as he starts to plan his 32-man elite squad for next season.

England drew their two-Test series with Australia after bouncing back from defeat in Perth to secure a famous 21-20 victory at Sydney's Olympic Stadium

It was only the third time England had beaten the Wallabies on Australian soil and Johnson's first victory over a Tri-Nations power since he took charge in 2008.

Johnson finished the tour exasperated yesterday after his midweek side followed up their win and draw against the Australian Barbarians with a 35-28 defeat to the New Zealand Maori.

But if that result left a bad taste in his mouth, Johnson insisted the "positives far outweighed the negatives" from England's five-match Antipodean trek.

"On the whole, this tour and this (midweek) side have been fantastic," said Johnson.

"There was some scepticism what value we would get out of the three midweek games. The whole experience has been great for the players, the coaches and whole team.

"Lots of guys have really come through, lots of guys have really stood up as well and will benefit hugely from the experience of coming our here and playing.

"This last defeat will rankle for a while because there was a definite chance to win it but when we review the tour we will say it has been really, really good."

The likes of prop Dan Cole, lock Courtney Lawes, wing Chris Ashton and scrum-half Ben Youngs are guaranteed to be included having made such an impressive mark at Test level.

Ben Foden and Tom Croft both enjoyed their best games in an England shirt in Sydney, Shontayne Hape gave cause for optimism and there have also been success stories from the midweek team.

Wasps centre Dominic Waldouck would have been on the bench for the Sydney Test and started against the Maori had he not suffered an ankle injury which cut his tour participation down to barely half an hour.

The Leeds flanker Hendre Fourie also made an impressive start before he too was sidelined by injury, while locks Dave Attwood, Geoff Parling and the versatile Dan Ward-Smith all enhanced their reputations.

But there were those whose prospects took a knock during the tour.

Simon Shaw and Joe Worsley looked increasingly like yesterday's men, Mathew Tait was the only player dropped from the Test 22 during the tour and Shane Geraghty did not get a single start.

Lee Mears dropped behind George Chuter in the pecking order of England hookers while Rob Webber leaves the tour knowing he must improve his lineout work.

But even that is a positive in Johnson's eyes, proof that the tour will benefit England's strength in depth as the World Cup draws near.

"Promotion for someone is relegation for someone else. But that is the harsh reality of it," said Johnson.

"I have had guys asking me why they aren't playing or starting and I said to them, 'Just worry about being good enough'.

"The end point is playing for England but you have to take those little steps in terms of being good enough at this level.

"There were lots of good points for players who have improved and played themselves in (to the EPS reckoning).

"There will be some learning points for some players to take away and be aware of.

"That is what we came for - to play at a high level so we could find these things out. Overall there have been so many plusses and a great experience for everyone."