Time to go, Johnno
Manager should pay the price for woeful World Cup, says Barnes
Last Updated: 10/10/11 3:01pm
Stuart Barnes believes the World Cup exit should spell the end of Martin Johnson's reign.
"Martin Johnson, after three years, has taken this England team backwards. This is the worst England World Cup team we have seen since 1987."
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England crashed out at the quarter-final hurdle with a 19-12 defeat to France in Auckland on Saturday morning.
Johnson's current contract is up for renewal in December and after three years at the helm, Barnes urged the Rugby Football Union not to offer him a new one.
The Sky Sports pundit labelled the current side as the "worst" England team he's seen at a World Cup for 24 years and says they have "gone nowhere" under their former skipper - who should never have been appointed in the first place.
"Right-thinking people were stunned when Martin Johnson was given a contract," he told Sky Sports News HD.
"It was a populist decision - Martin Johnson had never coached or managed any team. It's not a criticism of Johnson but no other country in the world would do this. It was a crazy ideal."
Barnes believes that inexperience proved costly as Johnson failed to build a settled side for the trip to New Zealand.
He contrasted that with the decisions made by Wales coach Warren Gatland, whose side are looking forward to the quarter-finals following an impressive win over Ireland. Gatland, he said, had a long-term vision, whereas England seemed to pick sides to win individual matches.
But Barnes also believes Johnson's players and backroom staff in particular should also shoulder the blame, the latter for failing to point out their boss's selection errors.
"People like Toby Flood, who came in to play alongside (Jonny) Wilkinson, have had ample time to sort out this midfield difficulty," he said.
"We've talked about it in the media for a year and suddenly it's Flood and Wilkinson against France in the biggest game of Johnson's tenure. That's not a gamble, it's just recklessness and naivety.
"He has been let down by his players and I fully agree with his attitude towards the players' behaviour: you're adults, do as you will. Some of them clearly haven't behaved in keeping with a team that is serious about winning the World Cup.
"Has he been let down by his coaches as well? I think he has, but only in the way he needed strong personalities to say to him 'Martin, you're not experienced, you're not getting this right'.
"They agreed too much. Honestly, it was like a cabinet agreeing with the PM non-stop and it takes you back to Margaret Thatcher's days - and that ended in disaster, too."
Johnson himself pointed to the spirited second-half fightback against France when tries from Ben Foden and Mark Cueto reduced a 16-0 half-time deficit and at least offered a glimmer of hope.
But Barnes believes it was way too little, way too late and instead castigated England and their coach for a slow start and precisely the wrong tactics against a side that was said to be in disarray following last weekend's loss to Tonga.
"The first 40 minutes was one of the most naive quarter-final performances I can remember in a World Cup," he said.
"What they had to do was stop France building early momentum. France, after their Tonga defeat, were worried and nervous but what England did was play right into French hands.
"There's an endemic problem. They don't seem motivated when they go out. They talked through the week about tempo when they go out, tempo, tempo, tempo.
"And they were right, if they were going to beat France and step up from their pool matches they were going to have to play at a greater pace.
"They didn't seem capable of playing with pace and accuracy together. When they played at pace it was willy-nilly and harem-scarem and when they played slowly it was a little bit more controlled but not enough to beat a good team. England have gone nowhere in this tournament.
"Apart from an adequate performance against a second-string Romania team, England were poor against Argentina, they were awful against Georgia and they were lacklustre against Scotland.
"They were dreadful in the first 40 minutes today so let's forget about the front-page headlines, the back-page headlines should be the real ones: that Martin Johnson, after three years, has taken this England team backwards.
"I think this is the worst England World Cup team we have seen since 1987 when England lost to Wales in a quarter-final."