Whatever befalls England this autumn, Martin Johnson can never be described as a pawn in the game. Sir Clive Woodward, for whom diplomacy has always been a stranger, has questioned England's decision to appoint Johnson as coach while he is still wet behind the cauliflower ears. "You have to be a warrior but you also have to play chess," the knight said. He identified Johnson as a Samurai-like figure but doubted if he had the tactical nous to be a grandmaster. "We'd all be more confident if he had spent a few years coaching Leicester. I see no one at Twickenham who can help him, who can question what he's doing. He's on his own." Rob Andrew, who beat Sir Clive to the job as director of elite rugby, would disagree, but they do on most things. Woodward, who led England to the 2003 World Cup with Johnson as his captain, got his knighthood for services to rugby before walking out of Twickenham. When he took the Lions toNew Zealand in 2005 it was checkmate to the All Blacks.
RFU's World Cup cash cow
Were the RFU being economical with the truth? Last week we reported that England were thinking of withdrawing their bid to stage the 2015 World Cup because the £100m tender bid would scupper chances of turning a profit. Yet a report commissioned by the IRB says the "direct and indirect economic impact could be worth £2.1bn to the hosts".
Kiwis turn Globetrotters
That sum would be manna from heaven for New Zealand, who host the 2011 World Cup but in the meantime are so strapped for cash they have turned themselves into a version of the Harlem Globetrotters. There was the Test against Australia in Hong Kong last week and, the All Blacks are eyeing up venues in Denver, Boston, Dubai and Japan.
Hunt for Red Dragons
Wales entertained 70 of their former internationals at the Millennium Stadium last Thursday. It was a unique gathering, but the attendance should have been higher. The WRU have a major problem – they have no idea of the whereabouts of another 50 players who wore the red jersey. Still, Bleddyn Williams was there. He is sick and tired of being reminded that he was the last captain of his country to beat the All Blacks. It was in 1953. Williams can't wait to shake the hand of a successor, preferably in this century.
Going bananas lacks appeal
What is it about hookers and gouging? Marius Tincu, Perpignan's Romanian hooker, has been banned for 18 weeks for gouging Paul James of the Ospreys. The French club went bananas: "It was a scandalous judgement, worthy of a banana boat republic." Judge Jeff Blackett, who wore the black cap, knows about boats, having spent 31 years in the Royal Navy. He's also usually adept at avoiding banana skins.