Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Players didn’t let me down, says Johnson

Martin Johnson denied he had been let down by his players after yesterday confirming his resignation as England team manager.

Johnson confirmed English rugby's worst-kept secret when he announced he would not renew his contract, which runs out at the end of the year, at a press conference at Twickenham.

It was a widely anticipated decision after a disappointing World Cup campaign in which England were eliminated by eventual finalists France at the quarter-final stage — to fall below their stated semi-final objective — while off-field controversies further undermined Johnson during the tournament in New Zealand.

A drunken night out in Queenstown, which resulted in Mike Tindall being fined £25,000 by the RFU earlier this week, headed a number of indiscretions that Johnson admitted he could have done without.

But despite that the former World Cup-winning captain refused to blame the players for his exit after three and a half years at the helm.

“The off-field stuff didn't help,” he said. “It portrays the team in a bad light and not in an accurate light.

“But we gave people the opportunity to report things as they did.

“I don't know about being let down. Of course it didn't help, we didn't want that reputation.

“I warned the players if they open the door slightly it will get fully opened. They did that.

“How that affected performances on field no one can answer.”

Johnson said he would leave without any regrets adding that he felt it was in the best interests of English rugby that he moved on.

“I've given this a huge amount of thought since we returned from the World Cup and didn't come to this decision lightly,” he said.

“I think it's in the best interests of myself and the England team that I don't continue on into next year.

“It's been a fantastic three and a half years. I've worked with some fantastic players and a great coach and management group.

“On field I think we made huge strides. The players we brought in over the past 12-18 months have become first-choice established.

“They have been to a World Cup and won a Six Nations.

“Part of me regrets leaving the job in these circumstances. There is unfinished business and a feeling to put things right. But I won't leave with any regrets.”

RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew, who joined Johnson at yesterday's press conference, denied he would follow him out the exit door, while ex-Italy coach Nick Mallett ruled himself out of taking over from Johnson.

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Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan is “keeping his options open” after announcing that he is moving on from his role with the USA Eagles, with suggestions that his next job could be in England or France.

O'Sullivan guided the US to a win over Russia at the World Cup in in what was a successful campaign for the Eagles.

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