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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March 2008, 09:00 GMT
England target Johnson as manager
Martin Johnson
Johnson has been out of the professional game since retiring
World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has been approached to work alongside England coach Brian Ashton as team manager, BBC Sport understands.

Negotiations between the 38-year-old and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) are believed to be in full swing.

Johnson is widely reported to have met RFU chief Rob Andrew on Thursday.

Andrew is expected to recommend that Ashton keeps his role as coach, according to BBC rugby union correspondent Ian Robertson.

Robertson also said a specialist backs coach could be appointed before June.

Andrew will make his recommendations to the RFU management board on Wednesday, with England's next fixtures a two-Test series against New Zealand in June.

If he does take the job then I'm sure he'll be very straight talking about what his aspirations and expectations are

Lawrence Dallaglio on Johnson

"In an ideal world, Andrew would like both Johnson and Ashton to be confirmed in their roles on Wednesday," said Robertson.

"It's common knowledge that Ashton would appreciate the appointment of a manager to take some of the daily pressure off him.

"There could be no better choice than Martin Johnson and there's every reason to believe that negotiations are at an advanced stage."

Johnson led England to the World Cup in 2003, but has restricted himself to ambassadorial and media roles since his retirement as a player in 2005.

The former Leicester and Lions captain is revered as one of the best leaders the British game has ever produced.

England's inconsistency since their World Cup triumph has meant Johnson's name has often been linked with a role in the national set-up.

But he has previously ruled himself out of contention, citing his lack of experience as the main factor.


Speaking last week, Ashton said he would not want a new manager to become involved in coaching or selection.

"I don't want anyone who's going to interfere or get involved in the rugby side of things," said Ashton, who has a one-year rolling contract.

Johnson's World Cup-winning team-mate, Lawrence Dallaglio, has backed the former Leicester man in the new role.

"Getting him on board would certainly be a positive step forward," said Dallaglio.

"If he does take the job then I'm sure he'll be very straight talking about what his aspirations and expectations are.

"Inevitably there are strong characters in the England team and you need strong leadership of those personalities otherwise there is dissent and disillusionment."

Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards, who was also linked with a managerial role in the England set-up, said Johnson's stature could present problems.

His inexperience could quite easily be overcome by his character

Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards

"I think if you're looking for someone who's not involved in tactics and selection and so on, then Jonno's probably not your man," he said on Wednesday.

"You can get administrators in any day of the week. What Jonno or anybody else would want is to have a say in how the whole thing is run and I think choosing the right guy is key to it all.

"But he would undoubtedly command huge respect and he has superb qualities that you can't get away from.

"His inexperience could quite easily be overcome by his character. He's a bright lad who understands life reasonably well and is very adaptable."

Speculation about Ashton's future has been rife, even though he has taken England to a World Cup final and second place in this year's Six Nations.

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