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Page last updated at 13:29 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 14:29 UK

Johnson excited by England role


News conference: England team manager Martin Johnson

New England team manager Martin Johnson insists he is ready for the challenge of leading the national side despite having no experience in coaching.

Johnson led England to World Cup glory in 2003 and also the Lions twice but restricted himself to ambassadorial and media roles after retiring in 2005.

"I have no coaching experience but I have got a lot of experience in rugby union in the last 16 years," he said.

"This game is always about players - it is not about the ego of coaches."

And Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron believes they have got the right man, despite his lack of coaching credentials.

"Nothing is risk-free in life," Baron said. "No-one fills 100% of the requirements of a job from day one but I don't believe this is a gamble at all. It's the right decision.

"What he brings is leadership, presence, knowledge of the game and all the wealth of his playing experience to the table.

"In the next year to 18 months, you'll find Martin will grow into all aspects of the job."

Johnson was confirmed in the role of team manager earlier this week and will start work on 1 July, taking England through to the end of 2011.

The 38-year-old, regarded as one of the best players England have produced, will have full control of team selection and the appointment of the coaching team.

Johnson is the only man to skipper the British and Irish Lions twice and won 84 England caps - 39 of which were as captain.

He was appointed Leicester skipper in 1997 and led the Tigers to four straight Premiership titles between 1999 and 2002 as well as successive Heineken Cup triumphs in 2001 and 2002.


And after having a break from the game since 2005, Johnson says he is refreshed and ready for the job.

"I come into this with my eyes open," he added. "I am fully aware of perceptions of me as a player and, since I retired, people have been asking when am I going to come back.

"It's been good to have a couple of years out to refresh the enthusiasm and now it is a hugely exciting time to be involved.

"There is every possibility we can be beating most teams around the world and I am delighted to be in the job and I thoroughly understand the responsibilities.

"It's a hugely exciting team to be involved with and I am really looking forward to getting on with the job and getting England performing at the level I think we should be at.

"I think we have some good young guys who can take this team to some good places.

"It is about creating the environment where these guys can thrive and play and we can get the best out of them. It is about team culture, that gets them through the tough games.

"I think I can be a part of that. It's a little bit difficult with the profile I have maybe, but it's about the players and giving them every opportunity to succeed."

And the RFU have insisted that Johnson will given the financial clout he needs to impose his vision on the national team.

"The current budget for the England team is 76% higher than it was under Sir Clive Woodward (England's World Cup winning coach).

You are not in it for the ego or for the finance - it's to do this job well and for the England team to be successful

Martin Johnson

"We have never, ever lost matches or failed in tournaments through lack of budget.

"Martin will have the budget he needs to deliver what he needs to do to take England back to the top."

Johnson will miss England's two-Test tour to New Zealand in June as his wife Kay is expecting their second child.

And the former second-rower admitted he "consulted over this decision more than any other in my life".

"When I retired from the game, the right thing for me was to step back and let other people get on with the job. The last year or so, I started to feel that I wanted to get involved.

"I spoke to a lot of people and received a lot of advice. A lot of people said 'you don't want to ruin your reputation' but I am not worried about that - you do the job for the right reasons.

"It's the same when you play. You are not worried about your reputation. Of course you want people to think well of you but you are not in it for the ego or for the finance - it's to do this job well and for the England team to be successful."

Johnson's appointment led to the removal of head coach Brian Ashton, who is now expected to take charge of the National Academy.

Johnson is expected to add an attack coach to his coaching team of John Wells (forwards) and Mike Ford (defence), with Northampton rugby director Jim Mallinder and former England centre Mike Catt both linked with the role.

However Saints chairman Keith Barwell says he is determined to keep Mallinder at Franklin's Gardens.

see also
England's new dawn under Johnson
18 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Ashton 'will take new RFU post'
18 Apr 08 |  English
Catt keen on England backs role
17 Apr 08 |  English
Johnson named as England supremo
16 Apr 08 |  English
Johnson's career in photos
16 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Comment: the Johnson factor
16 Apr 08 |  Sport Homepage
Matt Dawson's view
16 Apr 08 |  English
The verdict on Johnson
16 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Edwards admits talks with England
11 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Corry backs Johnson for England
08 Apr 08 |  Leicester
Healey keen on role with England
22 Mar 08 |  Rugby Union
Critical Catt backs coach Ashton
31 Oct 07 |  English

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