English Rugby
Johnson: Moody was a fantastic skipper
ESPNscrum Staff
November 26, 2011

Martin Johnson has leapt to the defence of Lewis Moody, insisting that he does not regret appointing the flanker as the man to lead England's World Cup campaign.

It emerged earlier this week in leaked documents relating to the Rugby Football Union's tournament review that some of Moody's team-mates felt that the Bath flanker had not set the right example for the players during a campaign marked by misconduct off the field.

It was also implied that Moody, who led a senior player delegation which disputed the squad's World Cup payments, was solely motivated by money.

However, Johnson, who stepped down as team manager last week, insists that Moody was a fine skipper.

"Lewis was the outstanding choice to captain of that group and I wouldn't hesitate to make the same choice again to do that," he told Press Association Sport.

"He was fantastic. He worked incredibly hard on and off the field, he did the job as well as he could do it. He gave a huge amount of care and thought to what he was doing. He didn't try and be something that he isn't.

"If some people didn't think he was a good captain, fine, but that is certainly not the majority view of the team. If you take one opinion and one comment and chuck it out there...

"You can't fault Lewis for the way he captained that squad. He was coming back from injury and that was difficult for him in that sense and he was hugely frustrated at times about where he was physically and not being able to be on the field, leading the team.

"I thought he did an absolutely fantastic job from the day we asked him to step up and do it."

Johnson argued that there is nothing wrong with players wanting to be well rewarded for their efforts on the field as long as they also take a large degree of pride in the jersey.

"That is a personality thing. It is not new. If your motivation is money and that makes you play well, I have got no issues with that," the former Leicester Tigers lock said.

"I have played with a lot of players and part of the motivation was getting paid well and they had been amateurs as well. It is fundamentally what you bring and how you bring it.

"Commercial pressures at top-end sport are there. You have sponsors, they are important to the game and you do that right. But you need to get the balance right in your life as a player.

"You can go around chasing those things and it can get in the way if you get the balance wrong. That is something we are trying to be aware of all the time. We have our commercial partners as well. For any team it is a balance."

Johnson also shrugged off the suggestions that some of his players were unhappy with his team selections and tactics, but was adamant that there was no split within his coaching team, as has been suggested.

"Players gripe about coaches," the World Cup winner said. "We all did it as players. If there are any givens in life, that is one of them. This is not a popularity contest and it is not a democracy most of the time.

"Reports of the management group not liking each other are completely false. That couldn't be further from the truth."

Johnson admitted that both the coaches and the players had come up short over the course of a campaign which saw them exit the tournament at the quarter-final stages - and that all involved should be held accountable for that. However, he is adamant that some of the conclusions which have been drawn from the leaked documents have been unfair and inaccurate.

"I hope there is dissatisfaction because we didn't do what we wanted to do in the tournament," he said of the apparent player backlash following the World Cup.

"There were things we highlighted as potential pitfalls that we fell into on and off the field. There is dissatisfaction that we could have gone further in the tournament and win.

"I have got no problem taking criticism on the chin. In fact, I welcome it far more than praise - but you just get to the point of going 'that can't go unchecked because it is so inaccurate that it is just wrong'.

"It is not a personal thing (that I have spoken up). It is for the game and for the team. You want the team to be held up as a great example for rugby players and sportsmen and that is clearly not the case at the moment and you have got to put that right."

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