It’s worth looking back one year at speculation about England:
Johnson took on the role with no previous experience as a manager or, indeed, a coach. His team’s far from impressive success rate since he took control has provided ammunition for his critics. But he insists that he remains unconcerned for his personal status.
‘Friends and former team-mates say I don’t need it,’ he said. ‘People even come up to me in the street and say, ‘‘Why bother? Why put your reputation at risk?’’. But I’m not bothered about reputations and never have been. If I was concerned about my reputation I would never have taken on this job in the first place.
Martin Johnson says there will still be no talk of a possible Grand Slam in the England camp following their 17-9 win over France at Twickenham. Of the possibility of achieving a Grand Slam, team manager Johnson said: “What’s the point? If you want to do something you talk about it at the end. If you do you set yourself up for a fall.”
Exactly the right attitude. Lawrence Dallaglio might have had a point about player input and who knows if Johnson took it on board? Also, the movement away from the dominant pack which had been so important in England’s success, to the three-quarters, comes down to the available personnel, doesn’t it?
All of these things are adjustments. What was really reassuring was:
Captain Mike Tindall added: “It was a good, old-fashioned physical battle. Conditions weren’t great for handling the ball, but it’s the sign of a team that’s progressing when we can get in at half-time, have a quiet controlled talk and sort it out.
That’s the sign of a champion team. Progressing, week-by-week, take the next hurdle first – great stuff and leave the speculation to the pundits and fans. And if something goes awry at the last hurdle [or even the second last], it would be so disappointing if pundits turned round and savaged the team.
They’ve done well this season, whatever happens. Unlike in football, England has a proper manager and now is the time for all to pull together.