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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 December, 2003, 01:28 GMT
England made in Johnson's image
By James Standley
BBC Sport

England captain Martin Johnson lifts aloft the World Cup
If there is one man who typifies the spirit of England's current crop of world-beating rugby stars it is its captain and totem Martin Johnson.

Hard as granite and never one to back down, Johnson - made a CBE in the New Year Honours - is also an intelligent and analytical figure.

With his furrowed brow and massive eyebrows, the Leicester Tiger is a brooding figure both on and off the pitch.

On the field in the World Cup final, he produced another stunning performance, inspiring the players around him to battle out a nervous 100 minutes by following his lead.

He never seemed to tire and his relentless work-rate belied his 33 years.

Off the pitch, his news conferences give the impression that Johnson has an intense distaste for the media, but his taciturn appearance is more down to a dislike of talking about himself.

Always happier when the focus is on the collective, Johnson is the ultimate team man.

Never was that more apparent than after the final, when he praised the united effort of his team-mates.

The England captain said: "It was a huge effort by the entire squad of players, coaches and backroom staff, everybody. Thanks to the fans - they were incredible.

"I can't say enough about the team."

JOHNSON FACTFILE
Position: Second row
Weight: 18st 10lbs (119Kg)
Height: 6' 7" (2.01m)
Date of Birth: 09/03/1970
Caps: England 83, Lions 8

His immense power in the tight means he is the main cog in the powerful engine room - the pack - around which all successful rugby teams are built.

He also provides the team with solid possession at the front of the line-out, while he is a more-than-useful presence in the loose phases of the game thanks to surprisingly high levels of skill for a big man.

His refusal to take a backward step comes in part from the time he spent playing in New Zealand, still the hardest rugby training ground in the world, after he left school.

He was selected to play for New Zealand Under 21s and when he returned to England his fierce will-to-win saw him rapidly climb through the ranks.

He had already played for England Under 18s and by 1993 he made his debut for the senior side, coming in as a last-minute replacement for the legendary Wade Dooley.

Since that day he has gone on to win every honour in the game bar none.

Johnson in action against Australia
Johnson gives everything in every game for England

He captained England to the 2003 Six Nations Grand Slam and led club side Leicester Tigers as they won four consecutive Zurich Premiership titles and a European Cup double.

He has also toured with the Lions three times.

He became the first man in history to captain them twice when he led the Lions on the tour of Australia in 2001, after leading the winning tour of South Africa in 1997.

Off the pitch Johnson is renowned as a sporting trivia expert with a remarkably wide range of knowledge.

The father of a newborn daughter, he has become such a dab hand at changing nappies that England prop Jason Leonard has nicknamed him "mum".

But if he has a soft side off the pitch, that is exactly where it stays, because once the whistle blows there is no-one more uncompromising than the England captain.

Driven, focused and afraid of nobody, Johnson is the embodiment of the qualities that have made England the number one team in the world and now world champions.




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