Johnson will rule England with iron fist, says Dallaglio

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The Independent Online

Lawrence Dallaglio last night backed Martin Johnson to instil a set of "non-negotiable standards" into the England team that he believes have been allowed to dwindle since Sir Clive Woodward stood down as head coach.

Dallaglio feels "things have not been the same" since Woodward left in 2004, but he is confident that Johnson will rebuild the demanding environment which helped England win the 2003 World Cup. Delivering the annual Obolensky Lecture in London last night, Dallaglio used the off-field problems that hit England on the summer tour to New Zealand as an example of how standards have dropped.

He criticised the decision to allow the players to go drinking until the early hours after losing the first Test – an evening which led to a police investigation after a local woman made unproven allegations against four members of the squad. The players were later fully cleared.

Dallaglio expects the relative newcomers to the England squad to be in for a rude awakening when Johnson takes charge for the autumn internationals. "Martin Johnson knows what it takes to win," said Dallaglio. "He knows that if you lose by 37 points in New Zealand you don't go out on the town. The best winners are those who hate losing. There are some standards that are non-negotiable that have been missing from the England team over the last few years."

A lack of leadership was blamed for England's off-field problems in New Zealand. Steve Borthwick was captain of a squad with few senior players to act as a guide to the young players.

Dallaglio believes growing that leadership group is one of the biggest challenges Johnson faces as the new England manager. Dallaglio fears the professional game is producing players who have not had any opportunity to develop life skills and personalities outside rugby. When England won the 2003 World Cup, the team had a powerful backbone of players with captaincy experience and leadership qualities – the likes of Dallaglio, Johnson, Matt Dawson, Jason Leonard, Neil Back and Richard Hill.

Dallaglio said: "We developed leaders in specialist areas and it was clearly an integral part of our success in 2003. We had leaders and personalities all over the pitch. This is the area in which I think England have had, and continue to have, concerns. It is an area that is really worrying for me."

* Scotland coach Frank Hadden yesterday named Mike Blair as captain for their trio of autumn tests, starting with the visit of the All Blacks to Murrayfield on 8 November.