Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Martin Johnson quits as England rugby manager

Martin Johnson today quit as England team manager.

The former team captain decided to resign following his country's disastrous World Cup in New Zealand last month.

England were dumped out of the competition in the quarter-finals by eventual finalists France. But it was their off-field controversies which attracted the most headlines.

Mike Tindall was fined £25,000 and dropped from the England for his conduct relating to a drunken night out in Queenstown.

Johnson defended Tindall, who was forced to apologise for misleading the England management as to his movements that night.

Tindall has indicated his intention to appeal while James Haskell and Chris Ashton were both hit with suspended £5000 fines for an incident at the team hotel in Queenstown.

Even when England were out of the tournament, they still courted controversy with Manu Tuilagi detained by Auckland police and fined by the RFU for jumping off a ferry into the harbour.

On the field, England fell short of their stated objective of reaching the World Cup semi-finals.

Johnson has resigned on the eve of a wide-ranging review into England's campaign.

Johnson was recruited in controversial fashion by the RFU in 2008 to replace Brian Ashton, who had overseen England's rocky passage to the previous year's World Cup final.

The highlights of Johnson's 38-Test tenure came with England's first Six Nations title since 2003 and their back-to-back victories over Australia in 2010.

Johnson's overall record since he took hands-on control for the 2008 autumn internationals was 21 victories, 16 defeats and one draw.

Johnson was contracted until the end of December.

The Rugby Football Union must act fast to identify a replacement, with the Six Nations looming in February. England are required to name an elite squad in the first week of January.

Johnson's departure leaves his coaching staff of Graham Rowntree, Mike Ford, Brian Smith and John Wells in jeopardy.

Smith is understood to have already been sounding out coaching roles in Australia.

There is reported to be support for Rowntree and Ford, although they may fear that any new England manager may look to bring in his own staff.

Johnson and Rob Andrew, the RFU's head of elite rugby, will front a press conference at Twickenham at 1600 this afternoon.

Leicester have already ruled out the possibility of Johnson returning to his former club.

Tigers executive chairman Peter Tom said in today's Leicester Mercury: "If he does step down, I would expect he would want some time away from the game.

"And it would be difficult to see what position we would have available for him.

"We have got a great director of rugby in Richard Cockerill, and I always saw Martin as more of a general manager than coach.

"We are also actively looking for a chief executive and have a firm conducting that search for us.

"I am hoping we would have some candidates to speak to in the new year so it is tough to see where Martin could fit in."

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