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English Rugby
Johnson adopts open-door policy
ESPNscrum Staff
August 29, 2011

England boss Martin Johnson has revealed that he will not place any restrictions on wives and girlfriends visiting his players while they are in World Cup camp.

Johnson's 30-man squad - minus the ill Simon Shaw, who was set to travel tomorrow - were saying their goodbyes to family and friends this afternoon as they jetted off for what they hoped was a near two-month stay in New Zealand. But unlike their football and cricket counterparts, who have been denied regular contact with their nearest and dearest during major events away from home recently, England's rugby stars will be permitted to fly them over for a reunion at any time.

Manager Johnson said: "I don't impose travel restrictions. The wives and girlfriends are all very sensible and very supportive and just want their partners to have a good experience in terms of playing."

Former lock Johnson, who enjoyed similar licence while captaining his country to World Cup glory eight years ago, added: "It is the best thing you can have. I had my wife and my little girl out there in 2003 and it is part of the switching-off process. It gives you some normality.

"When we are in camp (in England), they can go home and get some reality. It is an intense little bubble you live in, even at home, never mind being away from home in a World Cup."

Regular visits from loved ones may also help England avoid a repeat of the kind of scandal that engulfed their last visit to New Zealand three years ago. That saw two players fined following a drinking session that resulted in an allegation of sexual assault, although no formal complaint was made to police.

Johnson said: "We speak about that every time we go away. You put yourselves and your team-mates at risk. It is a different world to what it was.

"I remember going there 18 years ago as a British & Irish Lion and the boys had good fun, but you have got to be careful."

He added: "When I started playing rugby at senior level, you were dealing with blokes. They treated us like adults and there is no reason to change that. They are there to make sensible decisions. If I can't trust them, there is a simple choice for us to make."

Despite the thinly-veiled warning, Johnson urged his players to take the time to unwind in between matches and "enjoy the experience". Revealing there would be no Twitter bans on his players, he added: "You are away from home for a long time and you have got to be able to switch off in the heat of it all."

That heat will be on from the moment England touchdown, with New Zealand the most intense rugby environment on the planet. Johnson's men kick off their World Cup campaign against Argentina a week on Saturday, arguably their toughest Pool B fixture.

But they have been battle-hardened by home and away Tests with Wales and the weekend's hugely encouraging victory in Ireland. "We trained pretty hard on Thursday to get their attention and they were a bit grumpy about that," said Johnson. "If they play like they did on Saturday, we might do it a bit more often."

England look to have run into form at just the right time but Johnson wanted further proof they have what it takes to alter their game plan midway through a match. "We have got some good balance but it is the ability to change on the hoof," he said, insisting he would be happy to win every game by a point. "Kicking it in the air and chasing it can get you to a World Cup final if you do it well enough. That is the art of it.

"You have got to find a way to win."

Johnson was confident his entire squad would be fit ahead of the Pumas clash after a succession of injuries disrupted his warm-up plans. "It was like a mini World Cup in a week in terms of dealing with injuries and the team having to adapt - it was good," he said, insisting the trial by media which took place after the recent defeat to Wales in Cardiff would also stand England in good stead for what was to come in New Zealand.

"You'd have thought the world had caved in last week when they lost to Wales but that's good, you have to deal with it - good practice."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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