Martin Johnson was hard pressed to contain his frustration last night. "It's the strangest game I have seen, in terms of dominating so much of the first half and then going in at 6-6," England's team manager said. He then tailed off, shaking his head.
"You go in, you work, you shouldn't let games like that get away from you. We had the chances, it wasn't like the opportunities weren't there. We could still be out there scrummaging on their line now, I think. We have no excuses."
The slim comfort Johnson has is that his injury situation has not been exacerbated – Richard Wigglesworth, the Saracens scrum-half, took a blow to the head which forced him off in the first half, but he should be able to train this week. Ben Youngs of Leicester, last season's No 9, trained last week and could be involved against Ireland on 27 August, after missing the Wales games while recovering from a knee injury.
"Frustration isn't a bad emotion to have, that bit of angst, of grumpiness," said Johnson, who is famous for his grumps. He has started 28 players in the two games against Wales and they have created enough chances to win both games, though it was clear yesterday that his players failed to adapt to the refereeing of the Irishman Alain Rolland, who took control of England's defeat by South Africa in the last World Cup final, four years ago.
Wales, in stark contrast, praised the work of players who spent a fortnight undergoing conditioning work at Spala in Poland in the summer. "They were able to repeat, repeat and repeat," said Shaun Edwards, the defence coach. The statistics bore him out: Wales made twice the tackles that England did.
"Sometimes we have gone into international campaigns not as fit as we might have been, but the last two months have been almost like a club pre-season," said Warren Gatland, the head coach. "We have guys capable of soaking up pressure, they have worked their butts off. They have taken the responsibility that we put on them."
But Gatland, who had watched his side win four times in their previous 17 matches, emphasised that victory had been the essential requirement, particularly in front of a record crowd for a summer international in Cardiff, who had put economic hardship aside to support the national team. This is the first time in four games that Wales have beaten England in a World Cup warm-up game. In two of those encounters, England scored 43 points (2003) and 62 points (2007).
"We have sent a message that we are good enough to beat one of the top sides in the world," said Gatland, whose captain, Sam Warburton, is a relative tiro. The Blues flanker was praised by Gatland, and with the prospects of the Scarlets hooker Matthew Rees leading Wales in New Zealand receding rapidly, Warburton may prove more than just a stand-in.Reuse content