Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Probyn supports Johnson

Martin Johnson

Former international Jeff Probyn believes it would be a "shame" if England team manager Martin Johnson left his post.

Uncertainty shrouds Johnson's future following a highly disappointing World Cup during which the squad were criticised for their performances on the pitch and behaviour off it. Reports have suggested Johnson, whose contract runs out at the end of the year, may choose to resign in the coming days, but Probyn hopes that will not be the case.

"I don't know (if Johnson will quit). There's enough speculation going on, he's got options elsewhere. He may well do, but it would be a shame if he did," Probyn, who won 37 caps for England in the 1980s and '90s, told Press Association Sport.

Probyn believes the experience Johnson, who took over as England manager in 2008 having captained his country to World Cup glory in 2003, picked up during the turbulent World Cup campaign in New Zealand will stand him in good stead for the future if he stays in the job.

"His experience would be wasted if he didn't carry on given that it's his first ever managerial role, it's not like he's been doing it at a club level or anything like that before. He now has a lot of experience that could take him forward," Probyn said.

Asked if he thought Johnson was the best man for the job, ex-prop Probyn said: "Arguably he wasn't the best man when he was appointed, the best man was Dean Richards, but Dean Richards obviously would not be considered now.

"You'd say probably the man who is best for it would be Jim Mallinder, given that he's coached the Saxons, he's now doing well at Northampton, so he's shown that he can coach at all levels and as such would be the obvious choice, unless of course you want to go for a foreigner.

"But Johnson having had the experience that he's had, of going into a World Cup and failing, he's shared the experience along with some other coaches who have then gone on to win, not least Graham Henry, Clive Woodward, Jake White...all these guys who have gone to the World Cup, failed and then gone back to win at the second attempt, so it would be a shame if we lost that experience that Johnson's had and perhaps start again."

Probyn, who thinks England will do better in the next World Cup if Johnson remains in charge, does not believe the Rugby Football Union will force Johnson out. However, if Johnson stays, Probyn feels the former lock forward will need to become a lot harder, both on his players and on himself.

"I don't think the union are in a position to push him out at the moment to be honest. My understanding is that Martin is obviously very distressed about what went on at the World Cup, both on and off the field, and that could be the deciding factor that makes him step away," he said. "If he does retain the manager's job and stay there, he's gonna have to be a lot harder. He's gonna have to be as hard as he was when he was playing."

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