Johnson is impersonating Robinson

“I’d like to see more enjoyment with ball in hand. We had too many players in the ruck and that produced slow ball.”

“We have to look at how we want to play. I thought we lacked a bit of ambition.”

If William Hill were taking bets on the man who made these post-match remarks, one name unlikely to feature on many slips is Andy Robinson.

Robinson sporting a familiar frown

The 45-year-old former flanker is arguably best remembered for his demise as England head coach. I am probably not the only one that still pictures him wearing a familiar frown after yet another uninspiring England performance.

In fact the pressure got so great that the hammering he took from the press during his ill-fated reign finally forced him to resign in November 2006.

But Robinson never questioned his own ability and his determination has seen him begin his international rehabilitation by taking charge of Scotland.

Although he looks back at his time with England with fondness he clearly still harbours regrets.

“I had six great years working with great coaches and great players. I don’t really want to dwell on what’s been and gone.”

Dwell he may not but no one would begrudge him a little moment to rue his bad luck. For a start he didn’t have Jonny Wilkinson at his disposal for any of the 22 games he oversaw.

However, bad luck aside Robinson clearly made mistakes. His selection policy was consistently inconsistent. He stood by players when they needed dropping and he failed players when they needed to be stood by – remember his treatment of Matthew Tait?

In fairness that is in the past and it’s not Andy Robinson’s fault the current management of Martin Johnson and co is strangling England in the same manor.

As well as both playing for and coaching their country, Robinson and Johnson also share a rugby philosophy that is perhaps the root of all England’s problems.

“Rugby is about winning, that’s what counts. That’s the big lesson I learned, this game is about winning. The way that we play, the style, the performance, doesn’t matter. You’ve got to win the game,” says Robinson.

On the surface, that statement is fairly self-explanatory. People play the game to win – hardly rocket science. But when a rocket is out of fuel, has wings falling off and doesn’t know where it’s going, that simple statement carries no meaning.

The next world cup is closing in on Johnson fast but he still has time to build the right ship. Rugby is about winning but only when the right formula is in place and scraping past a poor Argentina side, clearly demonstrates Johnson is some way off finding his.

Robinson is relishing his second coming as an international coach. His winning philosophy remains and time will tell if he can deliver what he preaches.

Johnson may have swapped Robinson’s frown for a steely glare – just ask Sky’s Graham Simmons, but his current failings as a coach show a similar resemblance.

But he is a winner and winners don’t shy away from challenges. England to win the next World Cup? – I’ll hang on to my betting slip for now.

By Tom Walker

9 thoughts on “Johnson is impersonating Robinson

  1. The fallout from the inevitable defeat against New Zealand will be interesting. Im one of Johno’s biggest fans and i dont like seeing him slated in the press, but there havent been any real signs of improvement since he took over. The odd good game here and there but nothing that we can be cheerful about.

    The only thing he has done differently is consistent selection. Its just a shame he consistently gets them wrong!

  2. What is it that makes good (and in some cases great) players turn in to such crap coaches?

    Robinson was a very decent player who might well have had more caps had his peak as a player not coincided with the reign of the Holy Trinity of Hill-Back-Dallaglio and he seemed to contribute a lot as forwards coach under SCW.

    And need I say more about Johnno’s playing credentials? A lot now is being blamed on his lack of coaching experience, but working his way up through the ranks didn’t stop Robinson imploding when he got the job did it?

    I think, to a very great extent, great coaches are born not made. SCW had less top flight coaching experience than Robinson when he took over the top job, but right from the start he had the balls to pick young in-form players like Matt Perry and pitch him straight in to the starting XV against the Aussies. And when we didn’t win did he drop Perry from the 22 altogether? No.

    When will another coach come along that understands the link between risk and reward? What’s the point in us constantly picking a team based on experience? Experience of what? Losing and playing crap, boring rugby mostly for the last six years, that’s what, and playing to minimise the margin of defeat.

    A lot of people still believe we’re a major force in rugby because of getting to the 2007 final, but for all the hype about that run to the final, it was still no more than a two game winning streak (yeah, OK four games if you count the mighty Samoa and Tonga).

    Why are we so scared of losing big against the big sides? That 76-0 in Oz was one of the turning points of the SCW era, with several of those players picking up the World Cup just 5 years later. Yes, 5 years – because a world-beating side takes years to mould and you have to think beyond just minimising how much of an arse kicking you get in the next game.

    Someone posted on here the other day about the fear that new players have of playing badly and being dropped from the 22 altogether. I totally agree. The only players that are allowed to play crap nowadays are experienced ones. Or the captain of course.

    Nick Kennedy should be a regular in this side by now, but he had one questionable game last Autumn and is now lucky to make the bench. Meanwhile the likes of Worsley (different position I know ) has over 50 caps but has played well in just a handful of them.

    Josh Lewsey’s comments today were absolutely spot on I’m afraid and I admire him for making them. Only an under-achiever like Worsley could seriously try and counter them.

    Unless Johnno’s selection policy changes by the 6N, I’m afraid I just see his reign fizzling out with him resigning. If you’re impatient with your team Johnno, start dropping them. Inexperienced players that underperform deserve another chance. Those who are experienced and still play crap don’t deserve their place, let alone the captaincy, so drop them.

    But when he goes, it’s not like we have a ready made replacement. There’s only one English coach out there that has any real proven leadership and high performance standards, but he’s out of the running for at least the next 3 years, and his credibility is shot for good.

  3. Spot on Rob – spot on. That Worsel has got fifty caps yet I can only recollect 4 or 5 great games from him is a damning indictment. How many chances do these players need in order to prove that they don’t cut the mustard

    these guys (coaches) have got to understand that winning at all costs is only an option if the team have a game plan of beating all comers. We don’t and whilst we play like this we won’t

    I would much rather see us blood some youth and get spanked than play like we are scared of the ball by kicking it away every time we touch it

    Marc Lievremont got a kicking in his first few matches in charge for picking inexperienced players and the team getting a beating. But he stuck by it, believed in youth potential – and they end up beating the world champs within a few years

    The final nail in the naive and foolish arguments of conservative neersayers like Stephen Jones from the Times who would have you believe that experience and a win is everything

    The saying goes “you never in anything with youngsters” – the reality shows that to be bollox

  4. Bollox indeed. Barnesy put it best when he cited the example of Genia – they have to push the promising young players through the system because they don’t have the numbers we have to pick from, so giving young players opportunity is part of their rugby culture.

    And as for Worsley – well, I think we learnt all we need to know about his appreciation for coaching and leadership when he criticized SCW and said that the Robinson era was much better.

    Lewsey quote: “I’ve had two phone calls from successful ex-England coaches, three phone calls from ex-England captains saying, ‘Well done, something needed to be said’. My guess – SCW and Ashton for the coaches, and Dallaglio, Carling and…errr…my money’s on Vickery?!

  5. Would love to think someone in the camp asked Lewsey to spk out – but what are the chances of someone growing enough of a spine to do that – mad dog aside…

  6. Don’t blame you for hanging on to your betting slip. England might not look a great prospect, but the EU makes it miles worse by denying consumers an open gambling market. Restricted competition between bookmakers means worse value odds, and less consumer choice. The campaign at is lobbying the EU to change this, please support the petition!

  7. Maybe he can impersonate the new improved Robinson and beat the Aussies next time out then! Good play by the Sweaties, they thoroughly deserved it, and a much better game of rugby than the scoreline suggests.

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