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Partners are welcome - Johnson

Martin Johnson revealed England would adopt an open-door policy for wives and girlfriends to visit players during the World Cup.

Johnson's 30-man squad - minus the ill Simon Shaw, who is set to travel on Tuesday - were saying their goodbyes to family and friends on Monday afternoon as they jetted off for what they hoped was a near two-month stay in New Zealand, but unlike their football and cricket counterparts, England's rugby stars will be permitted to fly their partners over for a reunion at any time.

Manager Johnson said: "I don't impose travel restrictions. The wives and girlfriends are all very sensible and very supportive and just want their partners to have a good experience in terms of playing."

Former lock Johnson, who enjoyed similar licence while captaining his country to World Cup glory eight years ago, added: "It is the best thing you can have.

"I had my wife and my little girl out there in 2003 and it is part of the switching-off process. It gives you some normality.

"When we are in camp (in England), they can go home and get some reality. It is an intense little bubble you live in, even at home, never mind being away from home in a World Cup."

Regular visits from loved ones may also help England avoid a repeat of the kind of scandal that engulfed their last visit to New Zealand three years ago.

That saw two players fined following a drinking session that resulted in an allegation of sexual assault, although no formal complaint was made to police.

Johnson said: "We speak about that every time we go away. You put yourselves and your team-mates at risk. It is a different world to what it was.

"I remember going there 18 years ago as a British Lion and the boys had good fun, but you have got to be careful."


From Belfast Telegraph