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English Rugby
Steele: Johnson has nothing to prove
ESPNscrum Staff
March 24, 2011

Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive John Steele has expressed his admiration for Martin Johnson's work as England manager, insisting the he has nothing to prove at the forthcoming Rugby World Cup.

Despite the disappointment of last weekend's Grand Slam loss to Ireland in Dublin, England are in a healthy position. They are Six Nations champions for the first time since 2003 and there is plenty of improvement still to come from a young squad.

Talks over a possible contract extension for Johnson will not begin until after the World Cup but Steele, who on Wednesday announced Rob Andrew as the RFU's new operations director, insisted that there would be no knee-jerk reactions.

"What we're trying to do here is get out of the cycle of short-term reaction," he told The Daily Telegraph. "I've spoken to Martin and he's very happy to talk post the World Cup. Of course, we wouldn't want to be left high and dry in any regard.

"But a World Cup is a natural crossroads. There is plenty of evidence that early reviews can get ahead of themselves. Martin, and his coaches, are doing a really, really good job. But he's his own hardest critic and he'll want to look at the performance in the World Cup and consider whether he wants to carry on. We respect that.

"We're very happy to sit down, talk to him about his aspirations and how we can work together towards 2015."

Johnson will also soon be working under the union's new performance director, with Steele at pains to stress that Johnson's role would not be undercut by the new arrival, with Sir Clive Woodward reportedly in the mix for the position.

"We're not about to change how Martin operates at the moment," Steele said. "His job is the next match, and then the one after that. This was never about smashing things apart, never about looking at and trying to rebuild the England team set-up. Martin and the team are on an upward trajectory.

"The performance director is about the long-term. It's my job to ensure that whoever comes in is there to sit in the background and support Martin. It's not about being front or centre stage, or of impinging on what Martin is doing. It's a support role, very much with 2015 and 2019 World Cups in mind. Are we where we need to be at the moment? No. Do we need to improve? Yes."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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