Johnson issues warning to players
May 19, 2010
England boss Martin Johnson casts his eye ove rhis squad during an open training session at Twickenham on Tuesday © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson has urged his squad to be wary of the "pitfalls" that await them off the field during this summer's tour of Australia and New Zealand.
Two years ago four England players were at the centre of sex allegations shortly after the team, temporarily managed by Rob Andrew, had been thumped 37-20 by the All Blacks in Auckland. No official complaint was made against the quartet of Danny Care, David Strettle, Topsy Ojo and Mike Brown, who denied any wrongdoing, though Ojo and Brown were later found guilty of misconduct during a Rugby Football Union investigation.
Johnson addressed the disciplinary problems when he officially took over as manager the following month by reminding his squad of their responsibilities. England undertake their first major tour since 2008 when they depart for Australia on May 31 and Johnson has spelt out the potential dangers they will face.
"We'll be together for three and a half weeks in hostile territory, staying in different hotels and city centre locations," he said. "There will be distractions and potential areas to get embroiled in so we'll need to be smart and look after each other.
"It's the world we live in. There are pitfalls and some could be put there deliberately. Day-in, day-out the guys will face these pitfalls when they are out and about in big cities. I don't think they will be targets but this is the world we live in. People have cameras on their phones these days..."
The fallout from a damaging episode that tarnished the reputation of English rugby lasted for two months and Johnson urged his players to be aware of their profile in the modern game.
"The guys who were there have their own experiences. Now it's telling them about what is expected and the potential pitfalls," Johnson added. "We have touched on it this week, although we've mainly kept discussions on the rugby. In the majority of these cases guys are in the wrong place at the wrong time. And because they are who they are, it grabs the headlines. If it was a normal member of the public, it wouldn't even register."
Johnson was keen to stress, however, that the extended 44-man squad would be encouraged to savour the two-Test, five-match itinerary which concludes against the New Zealand Maori.
"Have we changed the post-match routine? We'll put in place the right measures and make the players aware," he said. "I want them to enjoy being a rugby player. Part of that is enjoying going out with your team-mates at the right time, in the right place and in the right way. They are under a lot of pressure as it is, they've got to enjoy themselves. They have to be trusted."
Johnson, who will name his tour captain next week, insisted England must raise their standards on the pitch as well as off it as they prepare to face a Wallaby team ranked third in the world.
"You have to raise your game in the southern hemisphere but we always want to improve," he said. "We showed in our last Six Nations match in Paris that we can get it right and create opportunities. We want to play at the right times, to the conditions and the referee. You have to get the balance right on any given day. It's understanding what is the right time to play and executing it. But we want to go and be positive."