Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Johnson future looks in doubt

Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson's future as England manager was thrown into doubt as the Rugby Football Union began to deal with the fall-out from their ill-fated World Cup campaign.

Fran Cotton, the former RFU vice-chairman, has agreed to lead an external review into the whole England set-up, which will shine the spotlight on both Johnson and his immediate boss Rob Andrew.

Twickenham's legal officer Karena Vleck will also start to investigate all the allegations of player misconduct, which dogged England throughout the tournament. Johnson, whose contract expires at the end of December, has been given until Monday week to indicate whether he wants to be considered for reappointment.

Even if Johnson throws his hat back in the ring, the pressure appears to be mounting for significant changes at the top of the England structure. Cotton has already gone on record this week criticising the lack of progress made by England in the three years since Johnson took charge.

"It has obviously not been a good World Cup by any standards for us," said RFU acting chief executive Martyn Thomas.

"We are unhappy with what happened on the field. England should deliver better than it has. The off-field performances have been wholly unacceptable. I wouldn't say his (Johnson's) credibility has gone but there are question marks over the coaches and what they've done for him.

"There are clear issues there and similarly there are clear issues over the management of the players. We've had, without a doubt in my mind, the worst record off the field. And that's just unacceptable for England. Martin has been let down by a number of the players. Martin has accepted the buck stopped with him."

Thomas insisted England would not rush any appointment if Johnson left or was overlooked - and he did not rule out recruiting a caretaker coach for the Six Nations if needs be.

"We have to ensure we don't just rush in and say 'we have to appoint someone come what may before the Six Nations'," said Thomas.

"I really want to make sure we get this right this time. If we have to appoint a temporary coach to see us through the Six Nations, that's fine. As far as I'm concerned this time we do it right. We've wasted a lot of time since 2003."

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