Johnson plight brings back memories for Henry
November 28, 2008
New Zealand coach Graham Henry has drawn parallels between Martin Johnson's troubles and his own early career © Getty Images
New Zealand boss Graham Henry has backed Martin Johnson to succeed as England coach provided he is given adequate time to stamp his authority on the post. Critics have rounded on Johnson after two heavy defeats, but Henry sees parallels between Johnson's predicament and his own early coaching career.
"I remember a young coach who came over to coach a team call Wales in 1998. In their first four games they lost three times," he said. "The coach received a letter from a guy quite highly-placed in the Welsh game offering him a one-way first-class ticket back to New Zealand. But he hung in there and won a few games after that. It might be a similar situation for Martin. Maybe he needs patience.
"He's a man of high standards who achieved great things in the past. He was respected by his peers and led by example. But you must give him space. It's not as if the team he's coaching is full of experience. The media can kill him or support him."
Since Henry's All Blacks arrived in Europe there has been fervent debate about the raft of southern hemisphere players inhabiting European leagues. Henry has put forward his belief that the foreign players are cutting down the opportunities available to home-grown talent.
Henry puts the Tri-Nations sides' dominance since their arrival on tour down to this fact and the weather conditions in Europe. "We play in the summer and that's conducive to ball in hand rugby. The three teams in the Tri-Nations have a similar attitude," he said. "They want to attack and use the ball. They know if they don't they are going to finish second. In those conditions you can't play a stationary game, kicking for territory behind a big forward pack.
"The other problem is there are too many foreigners playing in Europe and they're playing in decision-making positions. How can you develop your own players if you fill the Premiership, Top 14 and Magners League with all sorts of foreigners playing in decision-making positions?
"Obviously the game in Europe will suffer if you continue to do so. The game will deteriorate if you keep using foreigners to do the job."
Henry was impressed by the development of his former side however, "Wales have improved since I left! They're playing some good rugby, keeping the ball in hand and playing with width," he said.
A win at Twickenham will round up a third Grand Slam tour for the All Blacks and Henry's second as coach, an achievement to cap off a hugely successful year for his resilient All Blacks.