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Exit stage left for Johnny Wilkinson as O'Callaghan and O'Gara close in
Inpho/Billy Stickland
Ashton Gracious In Defeat
2 February 2007, 2:02 pm
By Chris Byrne
"We were stuffed and we have to take it on the chin. We were outplayed by the better side." was England coach Brian Ashton's honest admission after seeing his side implode against Ireland.
"I'm very disappointed. I said how we made mistakes against Scotland and Italy and that we'd need to go up two or three gears if we were No ALT tag specifiedto beat Ireland," said Ashton.

"But we didn't do that and were punished by a side that was sharper than we were. They were more physical and fresher. We were beaten all over the field, there's no doubt about that. We knew it would be a difficult game but hoped to gain parity or dominance in some areas of the pitch.

"But we were stuffed and we have to take it on the chin. We were outplayed by the better side. They were better up front. I thought their forwards played very well.

"They scrummaged better than in previous games and when you have a line-out like theirs you're well on your way. They looked a lot more physical than us and they were more physical in the collisions. I certainly didn't see that result coming.

"I don't feel embarrassed or humiliated. Not at all. I feel there's a lot of work to do, but we already knew that.

"At half-time we knew it was going to be very difficult to get back into the game," continued Ashton. "But we had our best period 15 minutes after half-time, winning ball and keeping it which made life easier for us.

"At that stage it didn't look like we were just postponing the inevitable. If we'd sustained that momentum we could have made more of an impact on the game. Unfortunately we didn't."

As for what changes he thinks he needs to make for the next game against France, not surprisingly the England coach was not saing, "I'm not in the mind to make any big decisions at this stage," he said. "I'll go back, look at the players available and where we have to get to and which players will take us forward. I still have faith in the squad."

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