London. England manager Martin Johnson urged his side to use the “horrible feeling” stored inside it following a 20-16 loss at home to Ireland when it resumes its Six Nations campaign away to Scotland.
England rallied on Saturday from 13-6 behind to go 16-13 in front with eight minutes left after a converted try from Dan Cole was supplemented by a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal.
However, Ireland hit back as Tommy Bowe scored the second of his two tries when he ran onto a well-timed pass and beat Wilkinson before rounding Ugo Monye for an expertly taken score to end England’s hopes of a grand slam.
“It is a tough, tough loss,” Johnson said. “I thought the guys played very well. They got themselves back into the game and got themselves ahead. It was a tough game, either team could have won it.
“Have we lots to get better at? Yes, we have. It is frustrating for us all because there were chances. But we only took one in the second half and they scored two. That was probably the difference.
“I said to the players they have to keep that horrible feeling inside of them for two weeks and release it at Murrayfield. We come back to play Scotland, who will be playing that game to save its championship [after Saturday’s 16-12 loss at Italy].”
Bowe put England on the backfoot as early as the fourth minute with a try that owed much to Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton’s superb grubber kick behind the home defense.
Sexton missed four of his five goal kicks, but Wilkinson had a below standard return of three from six for the second match in a row after England struggled to see off Italy 17-12.
Neither Wilkinson nor centers Riki Flutey and Mathew Tait were able to give England the tactical direction that was provided for Ireland by Leinster playmaker Sexton.
In Rome, Italy coach Nick Mallett denied Scottish attempts to block Italian teams’ entry into the Celtic League made his side’s victory over Scotland any sweeter.
Italy beat the Scots at Rome’s Stadio Flaminio to end a two-year wait for a Six Nations victory and boost its hopes of avoiding the wooden spoon for a third year in a row.
For many fans, it will have had an extra significance since Scotland’s two Celtic League teams have presented the most obstacles toward the inclusion of two Italian outfits. Italy and Mallett believe they need Celtic League rugby to help improve the domestic standard.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for Scottish rugby and what they’ve done over the last 10 years,” he said. “Obviously Italy would love to get into the Celtic League, but the team has a lot of respect, and we wanted to win the game badly enough not to need issues off the pitch that have nothing to do with the game.”