JOHNNO: I COULD  HAVE BEEN SACKED

• Johnson resigns but admits World Cup failure may have cost him his job anyway

• Embattled RFU chief Andrew to stay and lead search for new England boss

OUTGOING England manager Martin Johnson admitted he could have been sacked following his side’s substandard World Cup campaign had he not taken the decision to resign yesterday.

The 41-year-old, whose contract was due to expire at the end of next month, called time on his three-and-a-half year spell in the job, despite 2011 marking England’s first Six Nations success since 2003 and the side having won 10 of their 13 matches in the calendar year.

Those highs were, however, offset by a failure to reach the latter stages of the last month’s World Cup which, when coupled with a series of off-field controversies, heaped pressure on Johnson. And after several weeks of deliberation he felt he could no longer continue in a job he described as “addictive” back in March.

“It’s been my call and I understand that if I hadn’t made the call someone could have made it for me,” said the 2003 World Cup winning captain. “It’s in the best interests of myself and the team that I don’t continue.

“If someone would have come up to me after the [quarter-fina] against France and said to me ‘thank you but no thank you’ I couldn’t have argued.

“That’s part of what you get yourself into. Players are in the same position – we pick and drop them and coaches are the same too. It’s just disappointing because we knew we were a better team than how we played in that quarter-final.”

Rugby Football Union elite rugby director Rob Andrew, meanwhile, confirmed he “absolutely [had] not considering resigning” and also suggested no attempt had been made to talk Johnson out of quitting.

Asked if he would have backed Johnson had he declared an intention to battle on, he responded: “That’s a hypothetical question and I’m not going to answer it.

“It’s important at this point in time that we respect Martin’s decision. He’s decided it’s time to move on.”

Andrew will now embark on a mission to recruit Johnson’s successor, but stopped short of confirming the new man would be in place by the time England’s squad for the Six Nations is due to be named in January.

“I don’t like to put deadlines on things,” he said with reference to when a replacement would be named. “As soon as I get out of here I’ll get on with it.

“The Professional Game Board will meet to review England’s Rugby World Cup performance and Martin has obviously contributed fully to that.

“All aspects of the management and coaching structure will be reviewed, and until then it would not be appropriate to talk about a replacement.”

Johnson, who was unsure as to whether he would return to coaching one day, was unable to pinpoint one specific reason for resigning, but admitted the disorderly conduct of some of his players in New Zealand was a contributory factor.

“The off-field stuff didn’t help,” he said. “It portrays the team in a bad light which isn’t accurate but we gave people the opportunity to report things as they did.

“I don’t know about being let down. We didn’t want that reputation. I warned the players if they open the door even slightly it will get fully opened. They did that.”

TIMELINE
WHERE IT WENT WRONG

Nov 2008 England crush the Pacific Islanders 39-13 in Johnson’s first match, but a bright start is quickly forgotten as Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all record huge victories at Twickenham

2009 Mixed year – second in Six Nations but routed again by Tri-Nations sides. Johnson ends 2009 with overall record of eight defeats from 14

Jun 2010 After more misery in the Six Nations hope breaks out, as a youthful England side beat Australia Down Under for first time in seven years. Arguably the highlight of Johnson’s tenure

Nov 2010 Beat Australia again but lose to All Blacks and South Africa, yet optimism remains

Mar 2011 England win Six Nations for first time since 2003, but ends on sour note with defeat in Ireland

Oct 2011 England crash out of World Cup in quarter-finals and campaign further tarnished by unruly off-field behaviour by players

Nov 2011 Resigns