Johnson fails to give reasons

2011-11-16 21:40

London - After 45 minutes of earnest but hardly illuminating discussion at a packed news conference at Twickenham on Wednesday, a reporter still felt the need to ask Martin Johnson just exactly why he had resigned as England manager.

Was it simply the failure to get beyond the quarter-finals of the World Cup and/or the realisation that his lack of coaching experience had let down the nation?

Was it frustration with the off-field behaviour of the players that brought him so much grief, or even the chaos all around him at the Rugby Football Union where it remains anyone's guess who his boss would have been come the New Year?

"There is no one specific reason," Johnson said, bowing out with the same lack of interest in the media that he arrived with 3 and a half years ago.

"You weigh up factors. It's an all-encompassing and all-consuming job. The cycles are from World Cup to World Cup and you have to decide whether you are prepared to jump in for four years and wholly commit yourself to that job. I'm not.

"Parts of you regret it and parts won't but ultimately you make your decision and I've always had the best interest of the England team and English rugby at heart."

Pressed on what finally made up his mind, the 2003 World Cup-winning captain stuck to his guns. "There's no one thing that tips you over the edge," he said. "It's not a knee-jerk reaction and I understand that if I hadn't made it somebody might have made it for me.

"The decision was what was in the best interests of myself and England team right now."

Johnson said it was impossible to say whether he would have stayed on had England beaten France in the World Cup quarter-final and possibly gone on to the final but, as he did throughout the tournament, did his best to defend the players for the disciplinary and behaviour problems that dogged them and him.

"Obviously the off-field things didn't help," he said. "It portrayed the team in a bad light and not an accurate light. We gave people the opportunity to report on us as they did.

"I wasn't let down (by the players). We were a team together but we don't want that reputation. It doesn't accurately reflect what we have as a group. I warned the players before if you open that door slightly it'll get fully opened. Unfortunately we did that."

Johnson did say, for the first time, that the decision to drop Mike Tindall for the quarter-final was influenced by the furore surrounding his drunken nightclub antics and subsequent "misremembering" that led to him being thrown out of the England elite squad and heavily fined last week.

"I'm sure it wasn't an easy situation for Mike and ultimately could have been a part of him not playing in that last game," he said. "How much it affected us on the field though, no one can answer."

Johnson, who was appointed despite having no coaching experience, said he regretted walking away from "unfinished business" but struggled to articulate why he chose not to try to continue despite now having almost four years of experience to draw on.

"I think there'll be a part of me that regrets leaving the job in these circumstances, of course, because you like to put things right," he said.

"Whatever decisions you make some of them turn out to be wrong, some of them turn okay and some are very good. I've got no regrets at all. We've had tough times we've had good times, that's the price you pay, that's the risk you take. If you want a very steady life don't come do this job."

Johnson was appointed after Brian Ashton got the sack after taking England to the 2007 World Cup final and said he felt he had left the team in a much better place than he had found it.

"This is not a losing team, we've won the Six Nations for the first time in eight years, we won 10 out of 13 games this year," he said.

"I think on the field we made huge strides, there are a dozen or so players we have brought in over the last two years who are now established internationals.

"They've done a World Cup campaign, a Six Nations, won in Dublin and Cardiff for the first time for eight years, won in Australia for the first time in seven years.

"At the World Cup we lost a game, we weren't good enough, particularly in the first half against France, a team that could have won the World Cup.

"There were probably four or five teams who could have got to that final, I think we were one of them, but ultimately we didn't play well enough on the day.

"That will always be a disappointment."