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Johnson not the problem for England; RUGBY NOTES.

Unfortunately the current crisis - don't be drawn into thinking it's anything else - engulfing the English national rugby team is likely to be simplified into a single, simplistic question of whether Martin Johnson should be sacked.

In this country we, and I include the media, the public and even an element of well-briefed rugby officials in that, love a quick solution.

Far easier to throw a Jonno-shaped sacrificial prawn on the Barbecue of Expediency than to actually tackle the real issues facing the sport in this country.

The decision-makers, don't get me started on who they are and how they came to get there, won't ask questions like why do elite English players play without wit or creativity and behave like buffoons? They won't ask why academies are telling youngsters to forget about playing rugby for four months to concentrate on lifting weights in a gym. They won't question the agoraphobic culture of English professional rugby which demands ball carriers run into contact not space.

They dare not count the number of promising young men left without a game on a Saturday. Far better to sack the England coach and hope the next one's a miracle worker.

For the record I am not in favour of removing Johnson, though I understand why so many are.

He has turned loyalty from a quality into a deficiency and the nowords-required stare doesn't seem as effective in management meetings as it was on the field of play.

Furthermore I am not convinced he has a clarity of how he wants England to play, which makes him a pretty poor selector. He is certainly no visionary in the Clive Woodward mould but then neither is Warren Gatland, Graham Henry or Robbie Deans.

However, he is a man who knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level. He demonstrated in his playing days he has the ability to learn from negative experiences and use it to inform and shape a brighter future.

What I feel he needs is time to reflect on the numerous shortcomings of the last four years and the authority to construct a new Red Rose edifice as he wants it. If that means favouring tight, forward-oriented tenman rugby then so be it. If it wins a Rugby World Cup in 2015 not too many people will mind.

But what must be made clear is that Johnson's retention or disposal is a different issue from why England performed so badly in New Zealand. The Titanic is holed below the water line and it takes more than a deckchair rearrangement to sort it.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Oct 13, 2011
Words:431
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