Rugby

Martin Johnson to defend coaching staff

Martin-JohnsonMartin Johnson will fiercely defend his coaching team at the inquiry into England’s miserable autumn.

Rob Andrew will lead an RFU probe after England missed another opportunity to show they have made progress under the coaching leadership of World Cup-winning captain Johnno. Saturday’s much-improved effort against a mediocre All Blacks side was at least a step forward from the shocking display in the 16-9 win against Argentina seven days earlier.

But just one try in three matches at Twickenham suggests England are still desperately searching for the missing ingredient to unlock the best defences.

With Johnson guaranteed to take the side to the 2011 World Cup, it will be his coaching team who come in for the closest scrutiny in Andrew’s review.

Forwards coach John Wells was heavily criticised last week by former England star Josh Lewsey, who branded his record “awful”.

And attack coach Brian Smith, whose coaching philosophy is at odds with Wells’, is also under pressure following a string of toothless displays.

Despite the urge for change, though, Johnson intends to stick by his back-room team for next year’s Six Nations.

“I am very happy with the coaching staff considering what they have been through this week, I thought they did a brilliant job. That will be my coaching team for the Six Nations. Absolutely. I am proud of the effort the players put in all week and everything the coaches have done. It has been a tough week with all the criticism flying around but I thought we came out and played. I think as a group we have gone forward. The way the guys handled themselves this week has been tremendous.”

The savage injury list has played a part in England’s poor performances but Johnson has repeatedly refused to use that as an excuse.

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