RFU chairman defends support of Johnson

Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas has defended Twickenham's decision to back England manager Martin Johnson through to the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.

Johnson's record since he took charge ahead of the 2008 autumn internationals is eight wins from 19 Tests - a 42% success rate inferior to his immediate predecessor Brian Ashton (55%) and no improvement on Andy Robinson's record (41%).

The RFU were criticised for their treatment of Ashton, who was relieved of his duties after England had reached the 2007 World Cup final and finished second in the 2008 Six Nations.

England were third in this year's championship but Thomas remains convinced the RFU have the right elite structure in place, headed by Rob Andrew, and that their new patient approach will be rewarded.

"Martin Johnson has got the management board's complete confidence through to the World Cup," said Thomas.

"He has absolutely the total backing of the board and executive staff, everyone as far as I am concerned. He will be there to take us into New Zealand 2011.

"Just like the fans, we are disappointed in the Six Nations. For the spectators, rugby is about the last game. That is the view we have taken on the management board.

"On this occasion, Martin has put in place a good discipline within the team that, rightly or wrongly, we felt wasn't there in the past.

"He has also demonstrated a loyalty to the players and indeed to his coaching staff. So, from where we sit we actually feel he is doing the job.

"I know there is a perception we have been harsh in the past, perhaps you will credit us for being gentler in the future."

That approach also applies to Andrew, whose position as elite rugby director has come under fire following England's disappointing Six Nations return.

Lawrence Dallaglio was fiercely critical of Andrew and said changes are needed right at the top of the elite department if England are to have aspirations of being world champions once again.

Sir Clive Woodward was championed in some quarters as a possible replacement for Andrew, who originally beat him to the job in 2006.

But Thomas reiterated the RFU are not planning a shake-up of a department which is responsible for more than just the senior England team.

"We are quite happy here with the structure we have got in place and we believe that is the structure that will prevail," he said.

"There are currently no vacancies in the RFU's elite rugby department and there have been no formal or informal discussions with Clive or Jake White, who was mentioned the other day.

"In fairness to Clive, the situation is that he has got a role at the British Olympic Association going towards 2012 and it must be causing him some difficulties when he walks in every day and his bosses read that he is leaving, which isn't the case.

"Rob's job is not to manage the England team. His job is to manage all the representative sides. There are some successes there with the under-20s and the under-18s, who have not lost in 16 games since 2007."

Thomas does not envisage any changes to Johnson's coaching team either, despite Brian Smith, John Wells and Mike Ford all having their contributions questioned at different points this season.

Johnson, the only member of the senior England management team contracted through to the World Cup, is responsible for the hiring and firing of his coaches.

"The coaches are very close and there are perhaps not the divisions people like to speculate about," said Thomas.

Thomas may be happy with the development England made as a squad during the Six Nations, but he accepts it was only apparent on the field in their last match against France.

England played with attacking ambition in Paris and pushed the Grand Slam champions to the wire and the pressure is on Johnson to build on that this summer.

"We need to see where we go now, frankly, on the summer tour after the performance in Paris," said Thomas.

But the RFU could well find their patience and "gentler" approach tested to the full between now and the World Cup as England tackle a fearsome fixture schedule.

Two Tests against Australia, midweek games against the Australian Barbarians and a tough appointment with the New Zealand Maori are booked in for the summer.

England then return home for an autumn series against the Wallabies, South Africa, Samoa and the All Blacks before the 2011 Six Nations.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor