English Rugby
Johnson: England job is 'addictive'
ESPNscrum Staff
March 22, 2011
England manager Martin Johnson in relaxed mood, Twickenham, London, England, March 22, 2011
Martin Johnson has hinted that he wants to remain England manager © Getty Images

Martin Johnson's appetite for his job as England manager has not been impacted by last weekend's Grand Slam disappointment, with the former lock branding the role 'addictive'.

Johnson's current contract - and that of England attack coach Brian Smith - expires at the end of December, following the Rugby World Cup. The RFU have not entered into negotiations over an extension, and will not do so until after the tournament in New Zealand. While Johnson is happy with that timeframe he has hinted, for the first time, that he is eager to continue at the helm into the future.

"Yes. It is a very addictive job in that way, even the stress and disappointment," he said. "Yesterday is always the worst day of the year in a way because you have been in a long tournament and then you are sitting there with no players to deal with.

"It is a very good group to be around. When you get that time together and that continuity and the success, that is what you do it for. I say to the players 'it is okay to want to play for England but to win for England is what you really want to do'. It is a good environment at the moment but we have to keep on working for that."

England may have fallen short of a first Grand Slam since 2003 with Saturday's 24-8 defeat to Ireland but he is optimistic about his squad's future, a far cry from 18 months ago when he was cobbling together a side for their autumn international campaign.

"That was crisis management really," he said. "When you remember where we were, this Six Nations was fantastic. You can't manufacture the experience they have all got from this tournament and to come out on top from what we said would be a very close tournament has been a heck of a job by our team.

"When you have a young squad it is very exciting, it is very new and you are making relatively big steps all the time so it is certainly an exciting group to be about. There have been some very big games in the Championship and they have handled themselves relatively well.

"I have no doubt we will all come through last weekend better for it. They are smart enough and savvy enough to be better. We were playing for the Grand Slam, remember, not the wooden spoon. We did walk out with the trophy. With the squad we have it will only get better and significantly better because of their age and personality."

RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew is set to vacate his role in the near future, as part of a behind-the-scenes shake-up instigated by chief executive John Steele, but in recent weeks he has delivered a Six Nations title and an Under-20s Grand Slam.

His current role will be consigned to the scrap-head and the former England fly-half is in line for a new position as operations director. The coveted performance director job has been linked to World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.

"It has been an extraordinary 12 months for this group of players to get where they have, notwithstanding the defeat to Ireland on Saturday," Andrew said. "We have all been in Grand Slam deciders and lost them, that happens. This team have now had the experience of losing a Grand Slam decider and it will hurt them but it will make them stronger.

"If you had said this time last year we would win away in the southern hemisphere for the first time since 2003, have our biggest win ever against Australia at Twickenham and win the Six Nations in a World Cup year with a lot of young players we'd have all said that would be very, very good.

"The process of development is very strong. We won the Under-20 Grand Slam on Friday and we have a tremendous crop of young players coming through the system. Johnno is trying to turn them into hardened internationals who can win matches at the highest level."

Andrew's proposed new role will incorporate managing the RFU's complex agreements with Premiership Rugby, the umbrella body for the 12 Aviva Premiership clubs, which have been the foundation for England's success.

"It took us 18 months to agree [a deal with the clubs]. We are now two years into it and we are beginning to see the benefits of it," Andrew said. "The amount of time the England team get together is probably one of the most important things in the agreement.

"In amongst all that you have to underpin it with English qualified players who get to play every week in the Premiership in order for them to come through. That was a problem four and a half years ago. We now have more English qualified players than we have ever had in the Premiership and the academies are in place. That is how it should be and that has been the driving force behind everything I have tried to do over the last four and a half years."

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