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RFU GO SOFT ON JOHNSON.

Byline: ALEX SPINK

ENGLISH rugby chiefs have admitted to giving Red Rose boss Martin Johnson a "gentler" ride than his sacked predecessors.

Johnson has been guaranteed his job through to next year's World Cup despite being less successful than both Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson.

"I know there is a perception we have been harsh in the past," said RFU chairman Martyn Thomas. "Perhaps you will credit us for being gentler in the future."

Ashton, ruthlessly removed less than six months after taking England to a World Cup final, had a 55 per cent success rate.

Even Robinson, who lost 13 of his 22 matches before getting the bullet, can claim a better return than Johnson's England, who have won just eight of 21 games. Thomas' words are a tacit admission of double standards working in favour of England's World Cupwinning captain.

Defending the RFU's position he said: "Martin has put in place a good discipline within the team that, rightly or wrongly, we felt wasn't there in the past.

"He has also demonstrated a loyalty to the players and indeed to his coaching staff. So, from where we sit, we actually feel Martin is doing the job."

The RFU's pro-Johnson stance won support from Rory Underwood, England's all-time leading try scorer.

Underwood said: "I have been a big supporter of Martin and making him stay until the World Cup. As far as I'm concerned you stick with him."

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EASY RIDER RFU chiefs have been "gentle" with Johnson
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 1, 2010
Words:250
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