Too close for comfort

Coach will feel let down - and will walk away, says Dewi

Last Updated: 12/10/11 4:36pm

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Dewi Morris feels Martin Johnson was always destined to fail as England coach because he was too close to his players.

"Hindsight's a great thing, but it comes back to Martin Johnson becoming too close to the players, giving them too much rope and unfortunately they hung themselves."
Dewi Morris Quotes of the week

The Sky Sports expert was speaking after the players and coaching staff arrived home from New Zealand following their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France.

A series of lacklustre performances on the field coincided with a number of incidents off it that put the England players in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

And Morris, who played alongside Johnson and rates the 2003 World Cup winner as one of the country's finest ever players, said he simply failed to develop as a coach after his appointment in 2008.

"They simply weren't good enough," he told Sky Sports News HD. "This is something I've said for a few years watching Martin Johnson develop.

"You've got to separate Martin Johnson as a player - and I was lucky enough to play with him and he was peerless - from the coach.

"He went into managing three-and-a-half years ago and really hasn't developed. He hasn't got a vision, he hasn't got a style and it's all about winning - and winning ugly.

"Unfortunately you can't have that. You've got to have the performance as well and that's what was missing against France and missing in this World Cup.

"Apart from a few peaks in his three-and-a-half year career, we've seen very little as a development to go on and win the World Cup as he did in 2003.

"It's a sad day that I sit here and say that, but I'm separating the player and now the manager. He has come up short, he has failed and he has been quite clueless at times."


Johnson retired from playing in 2006 and Morris feels he was too inexperienced and too close to his players to make difficult decisions.

And he said there was evidence of his failings in team selection, tactical understanding and his relationship with the media.

"He had no experience and no other country would have given him the job," Morris continued.

"He was peerless, a World Cup winner and absolutely fantastic on the playing side out on the pitch, but managerial roles are totally different. He became too close to the players and you can't make those harsh decisions.

"Some of his selection decisions were woeful and when he was put in front of a camera it was almost like: 'you don't know what you're talking about'.

"We flagged a few things up through his three-and-a-half year tenure that have come to fruition and I would say the last one was (Toby) Flood and (Jonny) Wilkinson playing together against France.

"They hadn't played together for 12 months, so how on earth did anyone think that was the answer to England's problems? Unfortunately, it all came crashing down.

"Hindsight's a great thing, but it comes back to Martin Johnson becoming too close to the players, giving them too much rope and unfortunately they hung themselves."


Johnson's future now hangs in the balance and Morris expects him to walk away from the role following a series of high-profile incidents involving his players.

England captain Mike Tindall hit the front pages of several newspapers when he was photographed with team-mates during a now infamous night out in Queenstown.

And centre Manu Tuilagi was given a formal warning by police after he jumped off a ferry in Auckland and swam to the pier.

Chris Ashton has also questioned England's tactics in a newspaper column and Morris says Johnson is likely to walk away, having been let down by his squad.

"It's whether Martin Johnson wants that job," he said. "I'd be very amazed if he does.

"I think so much has gone on, there are so many bitter pills to swallow and so many players have let him down. And they have let him down, Mike Tindall in particular.

"Was it right for Johnson to let those players go out for a beer? Yes it was, but not to get absolutely out of your head after the Argentina game that, quite frankly, we should have lost - and would have lost if they'd had a kicker.

"All these things have transpired to put pressure on Johnson and I think he'll just say: 'I've had three-and-a-half years, I've had enough now.'"

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