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Thursday, 28 December, 2000, 12:34 GMT
Johnson: Bad boy or fall guy?
Martin Johnson
Johnson powers through Argentina at Twickenham
By BBC Sport Online's Steve Cresswell

At six foot six inches tall and weighing in at over 18 stone, it is difficult for Martin Johnson not to have an intimidating physical presence on the rugby field.

But the accusation against the England captain is that his aggression often goes over the top.

That charge is perhaps harsh, although Saracens' Duncan McRae, left with a rib injury after a meeting with Johnson's knee, is unlikely to agree.

The blow may sideline McRae for the rest of the season and it was that altercation, alongside an off-the-ball incident with Julian White, that led the Vicarage Road club to cite the England skipper.

Martin Johnson
Johnson spoke out over England pay dispute

But in the high pressure environment of the Premiership and international forward line, it is difficult to see how Johnson is any more the villain than his colleagues and opponents.

To paint the Leicester lock as the bad boy of English rugby seems more than a little unfair.

Would the RFU really takes so many chances on Johnson as England skipper if his on-the-field behaviour was fundamentally flawed? Unlikely.

Fall guy?

In returning to Johnson, Twickenham chiefs showed what has long been acknowledged at Welford Road - Johnson is an inspirational figure and more importantly a winner.

He may not have a polished image in front of the media, but Johnson does his talking on the pitch, predominantly without his fists.

Where Johnson becomes the fall guy is more as a victim of the citing procedure.

Had that been in force back in the 1980s, Johnson's misdemeanours would not have stood out in the way they do now.

He has the respect of his fellow England professionals and obviously of Clive Woodward, so should Johnson be forced to miss England's Six Nations opener, it is likely to have a greater effect on the team than the individual.

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See also:

28 Dec 00 |  Rugby Union
Johnson awaits his fate
16 Dec 00 |  Rugby Union
Tigers hit back over citing
17 Dec 00 |  Rugby Union
Tigers furious over Johnson charges
11 Dec 00 |  Rugby Union
Johnson in Six Nations scare
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