Under-fire Johnson gets RFU backing

UNDER-FIRE England boss Martin Johnson was last night handed a stay of execution by Rugby Football Union bosses despite the disappointing Six Nations campaign.

Defeats to Ireland and France, and a draw with Scotland, left Johnson’s men languishing in third in the table with many blaming the lacklustre displays on a lack of direction under the current regime.
But the RFU have now come out in support of the World Cup-winning captain and say he will remain in charge until after the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, at the least.

“To come third in the Six Nations is clearly disappointing but we know that nobody is more disappointed than the England team management and the players,” said RFU management board chairman Martyn Thomas.

“The RFU management board discussed the ongoing media speculation about the England team management and our elite rugby department and were unanimous in their view that it is unwarranted and unsubstantiated.

“The RFU has consistently said that Martin Johnson will be the England team manager through to the World Cup in 2011 and that remains our position. In that role he has to have the freedom to appoint the coaching team he thinks will best support him and that position has not changed.”

Johnson, meanwhile, has again stood by his under-fire coaching team, amid recent criticism, insisting the likes of John Wells, Brian Smith and Mike Ford will remain alongside him for the summer tour of Australia.

“I think the coaches have done a fantastic job in the face of criticism that is ill-informed a lot of the time in my opinion. Criticising has become the thing to do in English rugby.”