England 12-19 France, Rugby World Cup, October 8, 2011
RFU to launch inquest into England exit
October 8, 2011
Martin Johnson is reflecting on his performance as England coach before deciding on his future © Getty Images
The Rugby Football Union will undertake a review of England's failed World Cup campaign before deciding whether Martin Johnson should continue as manager.
England crashed out of the tournament on Saturday with a 19-12 quarter-final defeat to France, who now go on to play Wales next weekend. Johnson's contract expires in December and he said immediately after the game he would spend the next few days considering his options.
The RFU's acting chief executive Martyn Thomas had stated in the summer the ball was firmly in Johnson's court - but operations director Rob Andrew will head a full review process.
"The key thing from my point of view is that we take the next four to six weeks with Martin and review what has gone on," said Andrew, who is Johnson's line manager. "Martin will reflect on what has happened and why we have gone out in the quarter-final of a World Cup.
"It is very disappointing that it has happened. The important thing now is to take stock. We said right from the start that we would take this right through to this World Cup with Martin in charge.
"We have done that and now we will sit down with Martin and look at what has happened. It is my job within the RFU to look at the review and take it forward and at some point in the next few weeks reflect and then make a decision. We will do that as quickly and as openly possible as we can."
Johnson, who captained England to World Cup glory in 2003, has been in hands-on charge of the team since the autumn of 2008. The final scoreline against France flattered England, who had failed to achieve their own minimum target of a semi-final appearance in New Zealand.
Only twice before, in 1987 and 1999, have England not graced the last four of a World Cup. This failure is arguably worse because of the off-field issues which have scarred their campaign. Johnson would not make any knee-jerk decisions in the hours immediately following England's exit.
"I'm not getting into that conversation now. It's not the right place and not the right people or the right time," Johnson said. "Give it a couple of days. I think if anything I'll honestly assess myself and how we've been and we'll see how we go.
"It's not the time now, I'm just disappointed for everyone. The backroom staff have all put so much work into it and had their hearts set on staying to the end. I'm disappointed for those guys as well. The England fans, over here, watching on TV.
"That's what World Cups are about. There's a big reward - what you can get at the end of it and the joy, but there's also the risk of how you feel right now."
Johnson said after England had won their first Six Nations title since 2003 he found the manager's job addictive.
"You know you are alive," Johnson said. "It has not been dull. Sometimes you come off after a game and you say the team was a lot better than us today. It was like that in 1995 when we lost (to New Zealand in the semi-final) but yesterday we didn't help ourselves enough in that game.
"I just felt we added too much to our own downfall. Emotions are still very raw for everyone so you need to step away from it. We need to step away now and get a bit of perspective on everything."
Andrew said the review process would be "robust" but he added there would be no "over-reaction" and no parallels should be drawn with Brian Ashton's departure as head coach in 2008, having guided England to the World Cup final.
"Don't draw any conclusions from anything. We need to look at this review, which we will do, in a very robust manner over the next few weeks, reflect on where we are as a squad, where Martin is in his role, and look to the next few years," Andrew continued.
"Obviously it's very disappointing to go out of a World Cup quarter-final, it's happened before and it will probably happen again to teams. We've just got to look at where the squad is, and I think there is a very talented group of young players that have come into the squad over the last 18 months.
"But as we all know you get it wrong in one World Cup knockout game - whether it's Ireland in Wellington who I'm sure will be reflecting the same this morning - you've got it wrong and that's it you go home.
"That's the nature of World Cups, we've all been there before so now we have to take stock, not over-react one way or another, which we won't do."
Andrew insisted the upheaval at the RFU over recent months had no bearing on England's under-performance and Johnson agreed.
"The RFU have been fantastic with the support that I've had. I think there's this sort of feeling that there's something dark and sinister at the RFU always waiting to jump out and that's not the case at all," Johnson said. "Everyone's been really supportive, even in difficult days. In has that affected our World Cup. They've done everything we've asked for."
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