Friday 15 December 2017

Martin Johnson resigns from role as England rugby boss

Martin Johnson. Photo: Getty Images
Martin Johnson. Photo: Getty Images

Alex Lowe

Martin Johnson has resigned as England manager in the wake of his side's disappointing World Cup campaign, Press Association Sport understands.

The Rugby Football Union will confirm the news at a press conference this afternoon, at which Johnson will explain the reasoning behind his decision.

Johnson is said to have been left angry and disappointed by England's World Cup performance, which ended with a quarter-final defeat to France and was dogged by off-field controversies.

In deciding not to put his name forward for reappointment, Johnson appears to have accepted the responsibility for what happened in New Zealand.

England were poor on the field and some of his squad poorly disciplined off it.

Johnson was recruited by the RFU to "instil a discipline and direction in the squad", according to then-chairman Martyn Thomas who pushed through the appointment.

Mike Tindall, Chris Ashton, James Haskell and Manu Tuilagi were all disciplined for incidents during the World Cup which undermined Johnson's leadership.

Johnson chose to defend Tindall following the now-infamous drunken night in Queenstown, even when his former team-mate apologised for misleading the England management.

Tindall has since been fined £25,000 and dropped from the England squad following an RFU investigation, although he has indicated he will appeal that decision.

Haskell and Ashton were both hit with suspended £5,000 fines for an incident at the team hotel in Queenstown.

Even when England were out of the tournament, they still courted controversy with Tuilagi detained by Auckland police and fined by the RFU for jumping off a ferry into the harbour.

On the field, England's minimum objective was to reach the World Cup semi-finals but they fell short. A quarter-final exit equalled their worst ever World Cup performance.

Johnson's decision to stand down comes on the eve of the Professional Game Board's wide-ranging review of England's campaign.

Much of the focus will be on Rob Andrew's role in the England structure as the RFU's elite rugby director.

One source close to the PGB said: "Rob Andrew is ultimately in charge. If it's not working then who's responsibility is it? Where does it all come back to?"

The highlights of Johnson's 38-Test tenure would be England's first Six Nations title since 2003 and the back-to-back victories over Australia in 2010.

Johnson's overall record since he took hands-on control for the 2008 autumn internationals was 21 victories, 16 defeats and one draw.

The RFU must act fast to identify a replacement for Johnson, who was contracted until December. The Six Nations is looming in February and England are required to name an elite squad in the first week of January.

Johnson's departure leaves the future of his coaching staff - Graham Rowntree, Mike Ford, Brian Smith and John Wells - in some jeopardy.

There is reported to be support for Rowntree and Ford, although they may fear that any new England manager may look to bring in his own staff.

Smith, the attack coach, is understood to have already been sounding out coaching roles in Australia.

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