Andrew puts on show of defiance to silence critics

RFU confirms Johnson and elite director are still the men for the World Cup next year
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The Independent Online

In the wake of England's underwhelming performance in the Six Nations, Rob Andrew has defended his position as the Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby. Andrew's job has been widely called into question but yesterday he described himself as "very comfortable" in the role and also received the backing of his employers.

Andrew yesterday met with Martin Johnson, the team manager, to assess England's showing over the last couple of months – they finished third behind France and Ireland – amid growing criticism, notably from Lawrence Dallaglio. The former England captain placed the blame for the side's struggle to find any fluency firmly at Andrew's door, saying he was responsible for "this overall failure".

"Lawrence is entitled to his views," said Andrew at Twickenham. "I'm very comfortable with the job I'm doing as it is, the way it is structured and what we have done over the last three years. I'm very, very comfortable with what we are doing.

"We are not where we would like to be in terms of winning the Six Nations. That is what we set out to do and we haven't done that. We now have to look at how that's happened and how we move forward and that is what we will be doing over the next few weeks and into the summer tour [to Australia]."

Andrew brushed off the criticism that has been aimed in his and Johnson's direction as being "the modern way". "You just have to get on with it," he said. The RFU will be letting them get on with it – yesterday Martyn Thomas, chairman of the management board, backed the current set-up to take England through to the World Cup. "The RFU has consistently said that Martin Johnson will be the England Team Manager through to the World Cup in 2011 and that remains our position," said Thomas.

"Over and above that, contrary to assertions in some media, there is no planned review of the Elite department or the wider RFU in July following the summer tour."

However, Andrew's comfort is unlikely to be of any comfort to England supporters who watched their side, after an encouraging opening against Wales, toil through their remaining four games. Johnson admitted they were disappointed with the outcome, although he found some solace in the last display against France on Saturday.

"We are not happy with where we are," he admitted. "We're better for every game we play, better for every experience – it's not always a nice experience, losing to Ireland, or to France, or drawing in Scotland – but as a group we'll come through stronger for it."

Johnson drew encouragement from the performance of Dan Cole and believes he has a number of promising young players ready to break through at the highest level. He also defended the way in which the likes of Ben Foden have been gradually introduced to the side.

England play two Tests and three midweek games in Australia and New Zealand in June, the longest such tour for a decade. It gives Johnson the chance to give players such as Courtney Lawes, Ben Youngs, Shontayne Hape and Jordan Crane game-time in a red-rose jersey.

Johnson, who has now won eight of his 19 games as manager, will be accompanied on the tour and, if he has his way, all the way to the World Cup in New Zealand, by the same coaching quartet of John Wells, Mike Ford, Brian Smith and Graham Rowntree.

They too have come in for sustained criticism, which has angered Johnson. "It's become the thing to do in English rugby," he said. "I think the coaches have done an outstanding job in difficult circumstances and in the face of ill-informed criticism a lot of the time.

"It's the world we live in. When you do well the adulation is too much. When you do badly the criticism is too much. The truth is always more boring. We are under no illusions as to where we are as a group. We know what we need to do to improve. It's a results-orientated business, of course. If I don't win games then I won't be here for very long. I understand that. It's the way it should be."

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