Johnson hits out at England critics

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson tonight revealed his coaching team would remain intact for the summer tour to Australia after branding England's critics "ill-informed".

Johnson once again mounted a robust defence of his backroom lieutenants John Wells, Brian Smith and Mike Ford after England finished a deflating third in the RBS 6 Nations.

A number of prominent former players, among them Matt Dawson, Jeff Probyn and Lawrence Dallaglio, have demanded a change in personnel - including director of elite rugby Rob Andrew.

Johnson has remained loyal to his assistants throughout his near two-year reign as England manager and tonight the 40-year-old hailed their contribution as "outstanding".

Wells' position has come under the greatest scrutiny but the current set-up will survive until at least the summer - with the Rugby Football Union supporting Johnson's decision.

"I don't anticipate making any changes. I thought the coaches did an outstanding job this season, particularly in the autumn," said Johnson.

"It's not the ex-players having a go at the coaching staff, it's just criticising has become the thing to do in English rugby.

"Mistakes happen on the field - perhaps coaches get some things wrong.

"But a lot of the time it's a player's error which is also a factor.

"I judge the coaches every day. I get judged by them every day.

"People ask 'what are John Wells' credentials?' The guy has coached the most successful domestic team in English club history (Leicester), winning four championships on the trot and two Heineken Cups. Then he coached England to a World Cup final.

"Who's got better credentials than that? That's my mindset.

"Everyday he does a fantastic job. You see the criticism thrown in by people and you think, what the hell do you know about it?

"You may have heard something second hand, but what's your knowledge based on?

"I think the coaches have done a fantastic job in the face of criticism that is ill-informed a lot of the time in my opinion.

"We're in a results-driven business. The players know that. If they don't play very well they'll be out.

"If I don't do a very good job I won't be here very long, I understand that. It's the way it should be."

The RFU released a statement from management board chairman Martyn Thomas stressing that Johnson would continue to be given autonomy over the make-up of his coaching team.

Thomas also denied a report that Andrew's position was under threat, insisting there were no plans to review his role.

At the weekend, World Cup winner Dallaglio blamed Andrew for England's lack of progress.

"The RFU management board discussed the ongoing media speculation about the England team management and our elite rugby department and were unanimous in their view that it is unwarranted and unsubstantiated," said Thomas.

"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.

"In that role he has to have the freedom to appoint the coaching team he thinks will best support him and equally that position has not changed.

"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."

Andrew rejected Dallaglio's comments and was bullish about his future at Twickenham.

"No, I'm not going anywhere before the World Cup. I'm very comfortable in the role I'm playing and where the department is at," he said.

"Lawrence is entitled to his views. We have to look at why that's happened and how we move forward."

England travel to Australia in June where they will play two Tests against the Wallabies and two midweek matches.

Completing the five-match tour will be a clash against the New Zealand Maori on June 23 in Napier.

"We have a good foundation for the summer tour and heading into the autumn series," said Johnson.

"Now some of these players understand what it means to be a Test match player, the work involved, not just in Test week but also the preparation required."