RFU keeps manager Johnson waiting for new contract until after World Cup

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The Independent Online

Martin Johnson, the England manager, will not have a spanking new Twickenham contract in his back pocket when he takes the national team to New Zealand for the World Cup this autumn.

Discussions over his future at the head of red-rose affairs are unlikely to begin in earnest until after the tournament – a clear sign that his employers at the Rugby Football Union will make their next move based on events in All Black country.

Johnson has never quibbled with the RFU's decision to judge him on the forthcoming global gathering; he has, after all, had a clear run at the competition, having been granted security of tenure when appointed in 2008. Yet when he looks across the Severn Bridge and sees Warren Gatland, his opposite number in Wales, operating with the safety net of a recently signed four-year deal, he might well ponder his own status as a hostage to fortune.

The RFU, currently engaged in a root-and-branch restructuring driven by the new chief executive, John Steele, will advertise several high-powered new posts over the coming days, including that of performance director – a role linked so heavily with Sir Clive Woodward in recent weeks that the notion of someone else applying comes as a shock to the system.

All the indicators point to a rugby figure landing the performance directorship, rather than a candidate from some unfamiliar part of the sporting landscape, and the quality of his relationship with the man heading up the England Test team will be crucial. The RFU will have to be convinced that the two men will work hand in glove, rather than engage in a turf war.

There have been a fair few of those at Premiership clubs in recent years, with Sale having more than their fair share of management fallings-out. Kingsley Jones, last season's coach and this season's marginalised director of rugby, yesterday became the latest high-profile figure to leave the club.

"I have had a very fulfilling and rewarding time at Sale, but my real passion lies with coaching," said Jones, who was shunted aside when Mike Brewer arrived at Edgeley Park. The fact Brewer was sacked just before Christmas did not change Jones' decision to call time on his career with the club, who have handed all the important back-room responsibilities to their former hooker, Steve Diamond.

Jones will not be short of offers, and it is not out of the question that he will join his old partner Philippe Saint-André at Toulon.

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