Johnson quits as England manager
November 16, 2011
After weeks of speculation, Johnson calls time on his England post
Martin Johnson stepped down from his position as England team manager on Wednesday afternoon but refused to blame the players for his decision.
Johnson confirmed English rugby's worst-kept secret when he announced he would not renew his contract, which runs out at the end of the year, at a press conference at Twickenham. It was a widely anticipated decision after a disappointing World Cup campaign in which England were eliminated by eventual finalists France at the quarter-final stage - to fall below their stated semi-final objective - while off-field controversies further undermined Johnson during the tournament in New Zealand.
A drunken night out in Queenstown, which resulted in Mike Tindall being fined £25,000 by the RFU earlier this week, headed a number of indiscretions that Johnson admitted he could have done without. But despite that the former World Cup-winning captained refused to blame his players for his exit after three and a half years at the helm.
"The off-field stuff didn't help," he said. "It portrays the team in a bad light and not in an accurate light. But we gave people the opportunity to report things as they did.
"I don't know about being let down. Of course it didn't help, we didn't want that reputation. I warned the players if they open the door slightly it will get fully opened. They did that. "How that affected performances on field no one can answer."
Johnson said he would leave without any regrets adding that he felt it was in the best interest of English rugby that he moved on.
"I've given this a huge amount of thought since we returned from the World Cup and didn't come to this decision lightly," he said. "I think it's in the best interests of myself and the England team that I don't continue on into next year.
"It's been a fantastic three and a half years. I've worked with some fantastic players and a great coach and and management group. On field I think we made huge strides. The players we brought in over the past 12-18 months have become first-choice established.
"They have been to a World Cup and won a Six Nations. Part of me regrets leaving the job in these circumstances. There is unfinished business and a feeling to put things right. "But I won't leave with any regrets."
RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew, who joined Johnson at today's press conference, denied he would follow him out the exit door. "No I'm absolutely not considering resigning," he said. "In terms of the department and the structure of the professional game - that's my role in this.
"My job is to run the department, not just the playing side of things."
Andrew stood firm in the face of some heavy questioning about his position and instead looked to praise Johnson for a tenure highlighted by this year's Six Nations success as well as victory in Australia last year.
"Martin has worked tirelessly to develop this England team, from a position where the team needed a great deal of rebuilding following the 2007 World Cup," he said. "A whole new group of players has been introduced to the demands of Test match rugby, including: Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Courtney Lawes, Tom Croft, Tom Wood, Ben Youngs, Danny Care, Manu Tuilagi, Chris Ashton and Ben Foden.
"They have experienced winning in the southern hemisphere against Australia and winning the Six Nations title for the first time since 2003. They have also suffered the huge disappointment of the World Cup in New Zealand, and how many of these players respond to this disappointment will define their careers."
Andrew refused to comment on who was likely to replace Johnson with names such as former South Africa coaches Jake White and Nick Mallet and Northampton boss Jim Mallinder linked.
"The Professional Game Board will meet to review England's Rugby World Cup performance and Martin has obviously contributed fully to that," Andrew said. "All aspects of the management and coaching structure will be reviewed, and until then it would not be appropriate to talk about a replacement for Martin."
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