Johnson fears ebb of Flood after England turn the tide

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson is not a great one for rankings, so yesterday's announcement by the International Rugby Board that his England side are now rated seventh in the world rather than eighth was not accompanied by the clinking of champagne glasses in the managerial suite at the team hotel. But Johnson will be none too happy if this proves to be a "dead cat bounce", to use the Westminster jargon. Unless England recapture the Calcutta Cup from Scotland this weekend, Sunday's thrashing of France will count for depressingly little.

England might easily find themselves back in eighth, the lowest ranking in their history, if they fail to build on the 34-10 victory they registered over Les Bleus. Dire as the French may have been at Twickenham, they are confidently expected to beat Italy in Rome in their final Six Nations match – the Azzurri are expected to be beaten by everyone these days – and if they do the job with something to spare, Johnson and company will be at risk of renewed slippage.

It will be surprising if the red-rose selectors make changes through choice, although Toby Flood, no mean performer against the French, is struggling badly with the shoulder injury he suffered while inventing a hilarious new way of not scoring a try during Sunday's game. The Leicester outside-half was under medical assessment yesterday. Should he fail to recover in time to play at least some part in this week's training, Andy Goode will be favourite to start, with either Olly Barkley of Gloucester or Danny Cipriani of Wasps returning to the bench.

One of Cipriani's club colleagues, the flanker Joe Worsley, was also under treatment yesterday, having split open his thumb – a wound that required half a dozen stitches. The Scots are also working hard on two first-choice players, the scrum-half Mike Blair and the wing Thom Evans, both of whom were injured during the defeat by Ireland at Murrayfield.

There were no reports of casualties among the French, perhaps because none of them held on to the ball long enough to get tackled. Marc Lièvremont, their coach, was wounded in spirit, however. "We always planned to make changes for Italy, but there will be no changes," he said. "We have to take collective responsibility for what happened, and anyway, I don't want to part with players in a rush without analysing the reasons for such a defeat. Some of them didn't have the commitment needed. They did not meet the physical, mental and technical requirements."

In Wales, the centre Gavin Henson received high-level support from his attack coach Rob Howley after publicly criticising the tactics and decision-making during the reigning champions' laborious five-point victory in Rome. "I think he was spot on, in fairness to him," Howley said. "He is an intelligent footballer who understands the game." The captain, Ryan Jones, saw it slightly differently, though. "Gav had an opinion and I had an opinion," he said of their on-field disagreement. "I'm bigger than Gav, so my opinion counts."

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