Johnson comes out swinging to defend England

Speaking to the media, and notably not the written press this afternoon, Martin Johnson has spoken out on the leaked reports in The Times this week.

Johnson felt it was important that he came out and said something over the leaks, given the “detrimental” effect they were having on the game due to the way they had been reported. “They are opinions, they are certainly not truths, written in an emotive time after a disappointing tournament. You’re always going to have issues and gripes within the team, everything’s not done to everyone’s liking in terms of philosophy and how you train and match play, but that’s just the way it is.”

“The imbalance of the way it’s been reported is one of the worst things. One thing that group of players did do was stick together, even though some were frustrated by how the actions of certain players meant the whole team was portrayed as something that they weren’t. How much it affects on-field performance is hard to gauge. As a coaching group we didn’t feel it played a huge effect.”

“The way’s it’s been reported is so inaccurate that for the sake of the management, the players and the whole game, I felt I needed to come out and say something. The players are horrified at how it’s come out. To pick out the worst comments is damaging and doesn’t truly reflect the opinions of the group.”

“You don’t like to see criticism of yourself, or each other. When we’re in camp, that’s the level of honesty we have, so you have to understand the level of context that the comments have been written in. It’s one of the worst experiences I’ve had in the game.”

Regarding the chambermaid Annabel Newton, Johnson claimed that he had personally spoken to her and that the players had apologised, and that he thought the matter was settled. “A few weeks later there was contact from lawyers and demands for money. We told the players they needed to seek independent legal advice. At the time we did everything we could do, telling the players to apologise to her for upsetting her and misjudging the situation, which was what they did. She asked for compensation, and that was an option.”

On the apparent rift between senior players and the younger members of the squad, Johnson commented that the situation has again been mis-represented. “Things were magnified larger than they really were. Some individuals are too intense, others too relaxed, and you have to get that balance. Some players were clearly frustrated with the actions of others. A lot of the problems came early on and we felt that the players sorted them out and were united moving forward. It happens all the time in squads.”

Speaking about the effect of the scandal, Johnson said that whilst he had his own idea of how well he performed, the overwhelming feeling now was frustration at the lack of truth in the leaks. “That’s not the truth. That’s not what happened. The fact that it’s got to this stage is disappointing, and damaging. England should be at the top of the game for people to admire and respect, are those senior guys [who were binge drinking] Jonny Wilkinson? Mark Cueto? Of course not. If you take out the worst 10% then it wouldn’t look terrible.”

“It’s incredibly sad, and unnecessary, and wrong. We knew the problems, that’s what we try and manage. Friction can be a good thing to create feedback so you can assess where things are. It’s about responsibility for your actions, about looking at yourself, which is why I’m not in a job.” When asked whether he would agree that English rugby was in a shambles, Johnson nodded. “If you’re playing well, you can keep the stuff on the field and politics off the field with the RFU seperate. Because of the poor performances, the situation has been twisted.”

No issued damaged the England team more than the incident with Mike Tindall in the Altitude Bar. “Mike knew what he’d done. He was in a very bad place personally, and had put the team in a very bad situation. The important thing was to keep the team together. In hindsight, we’d have stayed in on that night, and made life a lot easier for ourselves.”

On the future, Johnson reflected that with the changing of the guard, a lot of the younger players who came through the experience would be better off for it in the long-run. Who will be there to manage them and pick them up following this tough week though, is another matter.

by Ben Coles

6 thoughts on “Johnson comes out swinging to defend England

  1. @wilcosports

    Seriously, when is someone going to nip this thing in the bud. Paul Murphy (RFU Chairman) and his fellow board members must be thinking about making some changes soon?

    Funny thing is, i reckon that England will go on to win the Six Nations. With the young guys coming through they are going to have a very strong squad.

    As usual it will all blow over soon. But they seem to be making a good job of dragging it out!

  2. And this is what I don’t like about documents being leaked. For all the people out there saying “and now we know” what we really know is shit. What we know is that there are enough damning quotes (somewhere between 6 and 15) from enough players (1) to make up a news report about who was bad. There’s also a leaked comment from an up high under pressure looping the blame off himself onto a player who is actually performing a job and all of his responsibilities.

    I’m sure if you interviewed all of the Welsh players or the Irish players or the Australian players you would be able to get similar feedback by taking a handful of quotes.

  3. I love this quote “How much it affects on-field performance is hard to gauge. As a coaching group we didn’t feel it played a huge effect.” But from what we’ve heard and read, the coaches didn’t have a clue what was going on either on or off the pitch.

    1. This is exactly what a few people are trying to say though. You can’t believe what you’ve read because you’ve been given select quotes, selected by an organisation that will sell papers based on England looking bad, not good. What has been leaked to the press is worthless without the context of the other 99 pages and to say the coaching staff knew nothing based on the article in the paper is to say that Everyone loves Rob Andrew because Johnno stuck up for him in the press conference.

  4. What did we know before all this blew up. The RFU is a shambles, England underperformed at the RWC, which was partly down to the coaches and partly the players, England has some players that have gone past their sell by date and some exciting youngsters.

    What do we know know – pretty much the same except that the RFU is probably more of a shambles than we thought!

    Personally I don’t think much has changed, although Andrew is slightly more unpopular (didn’t think that was possible) and more people want Ford sacked (he’s probably been the unluckiest one) as well as Haskell being proved to be thick, but not half as guilty as most of us thought.

    So as the French say “Plus ca change”! Nothing’s really changed.

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