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Page last updated at 16:07 GMT, Friday, 4 April 2008 17:07 UK

Johnson set to agree England role

Former England captain Martin Johnson.
Johnson is believed to be close to thrashing out a deal

World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson has agreed in principle to become England's new team manager, BBC Sport understands.

BBC Radio 5 Live's rugby correspondent Ian Robertson said RFU elite director Rob Andrew held further productive talks with Johnson on Thursday.

He said that the England great has demanded total control of team affairs through to the next World Cup in 2011.

His appointment could be ratified by the RFU board by next Tuesday.

"Initially he was worried it was just going to be a figurehead position and fairly meaningless, but he has insisted he will have to have all the power to run the whole of the England team," Robertson explained.

"All the financial negotiations are still to do but it is very likely that by Tuesday's meeting they'll have worked out the full contract."

What's important is that Martin can get his winning message across

England's Jonny Wilkinson

Johnson's 2003 World Cup-winning team-mate Jonny Wilkinson has no doubt that his former colleague would succeed in his new role.

"I'm sure Martin would be massively influential, as equally influential as when he was a player for sure," Wilkinson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He has the qualities of a player inherent in him which I know to be the qualities of a good coach in terms of knowledge.

"What's important in terms of a management style is that he has the right people with him, people who can work for him and can get his message, a winning one, across to the players.

"If he chooses to do the job it's important that his message carries on and he is able to influence what he wants, because if he can it'd be a good thing."

England captain Phil Vickery says he would also welcome Johnson's involvement, but only on the 38-year-old's own terms.

"I hope whatever Martin decides, it's on his terms and the role is something that he wants to do," Vickery told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

"The unfortunate thing for me at the moment is that there is a lot of negativity around in the press.

"I don't want to remember Martin Johnson as anything else other than a fanstastic guy and a great captain. I would hate for people to turn against him."

606: DEBATE
Simon Austin

Robertson added that it would "not necessarily" spell the end of Brian Ashton's involvement with the England team.

One possible delay to Johnson's arrival involves RFU board member John Spencer, who is currently in hospital.

But it is not expected to be a major stumbling block and contract details are being discussed.

Senior RFU officials are eager for the make-up of England's coaching team to be finalised ahead of the summer tour to New Zealand.

Andrew had proposed the appointment of a team manager and backs coach when he presented his World Cup review to the management board at the end of last year.

He said he would appoint a team manager in conjunction with current coach Ashton.

There is acknowledgement within the RFU that Andrew was invaluable in brokering an agreement with the clubs over the management of England's elite players.

Yet there is increasing disquiet about his failure to reinforce England's coaching structure.

However, speculation that the former Newcastle director of rugby will lose his job if he fails to land Johnson is wide of the mark.


see also
England target Johnson as manager
21 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton's England future unclear
26 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton given 'long-term' contract
20 Dec 07 |  Rugby Union


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