Johnson unmoved by presence of Phillips
September 22, 2011
Martin Johnson insists hs players are focused on Romania © Getty Images
England team manager Martin Johnson has made light of the significance of Zara Phillips' arrival in Dunedin for Saturday's Rugby World Cup clash with Romania.
Phillips, the Queen's grand-daughter, is in town to watch her husband, centre Mike Tindall, make his first appearance for his country since becoming the subject of a tabloid 'scandal' following the publication of CCTV footage of him talking to an unidentified woman during a night out in Queenstown with team-mates two days after England's tournament opener against Argentina.
Johnson attempted to draw a line under the whole episode last week but the story has refused to go away and he was forced to interject a number of times during Thursday's team announcement for the game against Romania after being irked by the line of questioning being directed at Tindall, who was left out of the matchday 22 for last weekend's win over Georgia.
However, in spite of the fact that the controversy has completely overshadowed England's preparations for Saturday's game in Dunedin, Johnson insists that the players have remained fully focused on the task at hand and that the arrival of Phillips will not change that.
"It's not unusual. Players' wives are often around before games so it's not any big deal for this squad," said Johnson. "They are used to players' wives coming in and she's one of the players' wives. She's high-profile - but our guys train with Jonny Wilkinson every day and he's pretty high-profile."
Johnson was less than impressed with his side's performance against the Georgians, prompting an 'honesty session' on Monday during which he pulled no punches regarding the players' on-field performances to date. Consequently, he is expecting a positive response against the Oaks.
"There is no siege mentality. I think they just want to go out and improve and be a better side," Johnson said. "For some of them it's a first World Cup and it's about understanding what they're in. It takes a bit of doing.
"That Argentina game was a big occasion, big crowd, and they're starting to understand what it's all about. Against Georgia I said 'guys, this is not good enough for progressing to where we want to be'. We've got to go out there and be relentless and ruthless."
And despite the fact that Romania have made 11 changes to their side, with one eye on their 'winnable' clash with Georgia next week, Johnson is still expecting the Oaks to put it up to this side.
"They will come out and give it their absolute all. They are a proud rugby nation," the World Cup winner said.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park