Winning the only thing for England
Updated: 2011-08-31 07:53
England's rugby union team manager Martin Johnson speaks at a news conference at the team hotel in Bagshot near London on Monday. England left for the forthcoming rugby World Cup in New Zealand which begins on Sept 9. [Photo/Agencies]
Team's manager not chasing style points at the World Cup; just victories
Soccer is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom." It is fair to say the philosophy of Danny Blanchflower, captain of the Tottenham Hotspur team that 50 years ago won English soccer's league and FA Cup double, is not shared by Martin Johnson.
Indeed the England rugby manager, on the eve of his squad's departure for the World Cup, made it clear he didn't care how his team won in New Zealand, so long as it did.
Critics of Johnson's England will suggest they'd only be too delighted for their opponents to expire and that there have been many times since he took charge three years ago when they've indeed bored their own supporters, never mind anyone else, without the compensation of victory.
The contrast between Australia's 25-20 Tri Nations win over New Zealand on Saturday and England's somewhat more prosaic 20-9 final warm-up match success against Ireland, the same day in Dublin, did indeed seem stark.
One sure-fire way to annoy Johnson, England's 2003 World Cup-winning captain, is to suggest his team 'donot play rugby'.
England were much criticized for a lack of cutting edge in a recent 19-9 warm-up defeat by Wales - "you'd have thought the world had caved in," said Johnson - but they did score two tries against Ireland.
And Johnson, as befits a former lock, knows better than most there is more to 'playing rugby' than flowing backline moves.
"Australia play the way they play - you have got to be able to play different ways to win a tournament," said Johnson, bidding to lead England to a third successive World Cup final following its 15-6 defeat by South Africa in Paris four years ago.
"Argentina will come and do what they do," said Johnson of England's opening pool opponents in Dunedin on September 10.
"If everyone played the same way it would not be as much fun. Teams will do what they have to do to win. Whether people think that is 'playing rugby' ... it is all playing rugby."
But Johnson, in a tacit admission England's back-play may not always have been up to scratch, said: "We are getting there. We have got some good balance but it is the ability to change on the hoof.
"I haven't seen all of the New Zealand game (against Australia) but they came out and changed at halftime.
"If it is effective and that is what you need to do, it is playing rugby.
"Kicking it in the air and chasing it can get you to a World Cup final if you do it well enough," said Johnson in a reference to the tactics employed by the 2007 Springboks.
"When we beat South Africa in 2003 that was the most pressurized game," said Johnson of England's 25-6 World Cup quarterfinal win in Perth. "We beat them by 19 points and everyone said that wasn't very good.
"I would have taken winning by one point. If you win by a point, you are still in there fighting.
"World Cups are about handling the pressure and performing over a long period of time and not getting distracted with what people say.
"If you can handle that, and just try to win the game, good things happen."