RFU to make decision on Johnson's England role next week

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The Independent Online

The Rugby Football Union's senior management will make a final decision next week on whether to create a vacancy at the top end of the England operation for the 2003 World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson, who has been linked with a role at Twickenham for the last fortnight. There were suggestions last night that the former national captain had agreed "in principle" to involve himself in red-rose affairs, although there remained considerable confusion over the precise nature of the proposed job.

Brian Ashton, the head coach who took England to second place in last autumn's World Cup, was given a public assurance by Rob Andrew, the director of elite rugby at Twickenham, that he would have a team manager of his own choosing. If this position has been offered by Andrew to Johnson over his head, Ashton will be perfectly justified in wondering whether he was right to trust the words of his direct superior – not least because it was Andrew who recommended his reappointment following a two-month review before Christmas.

However, the coach has no plans to resign, whatever the outcome of the Johnson debate and no one from the RFU has suggested he will not lead the England team on their two-Test tour New Zealand in June.

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