Martin Johnson can look beyond the disappointment of missing a Grand Slam opportunity and see the positives from his emerging young England team after a successful season.
England’s hopes of a clean sweep were wrecked by Ireland, who stormed to a 24-8 victory in Dublin, but they were still crowned Six Nations champions for the first time since 2003 and, over the last eight months, have beaten Australia twice, including a record victory at Twickenham.
Johnson has has had the bonus of uncovering new Test-quality players in Alex Corbisiero and Tom Wood whilst winning six of the nine internationals.
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. “If you’d said at the start that we’d have been in Ireland with a chance to win the Grand Slam and the championship we’d have been happy.
“A lot of guys are playing a full season of international rugby for the first time and winning the championship is a heck of an achievement.
“The players are Six Nations champions and they are disappointed which is even better. 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 and 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 will come back and be a better team the next time we play. It 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.”
Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll earned his own niche when his try took him to 25 and above Scotland’s Ian Smith as the all-time top try scorer in Six Nations history, Smith’s record of 24 having stood since 1933.
France finished second, two points behind, after their 28-9 win over Wales in Paris whilst Scotland avoided the wooden spoon after their 21-8 win at Murrayfield over Italy who thuis finished in bottom place.
*Gloucester secured the season’s first piece of silverware by defeating Newcastle Falcons 34-7 at Franklin’s Gardens to win the LV= Cup at the third attempt.
Having reached the past two Anglo-Welsh cup finals, the Cherry and Whites finally secured victory after losing to Northampton Saints last season and Cardiff Blues in 2009. Aviva Premiership strugglers Newcastle rarely threatened.