Martin Johnson has revealed that he considered turning down the opportunity to captain the British and Irish Lions for a second time in 2001.
England international Johnson had already captained the Lions to series victory against reigning world champions South Africa in 1997, and was selected again by head coach Graham Henry to lead the side in Australia.
Despite his success in his first attempt at captain, Johnson revealed to Sam Warburton on BBC Radio 5 Live that he considered turning the opportunity down in 2001, and admitted he was surprised to have been named as captain in 1997 in the first place.
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Martin Johnson on the Lions captaincy: ‘I considered not doing it.’
“I remember turning up thinking ‘What’s everyone going to think? How am I the Lions captain?’ I didn’t have a clue how to be a Lions captain,” Johnson said of being name captain in 1997.
“I wasn’t that surprised to get the call [in 2001] because England were head and shoulders above the other home nations.
“I considered not doing it. You have that thing of ‘You can’t say no, I’ll get through this’. It was a tough tour. With everything that had gone on that year, I was knackered.”
The Lions’ unsuccessful series against the Wallabies in 2001.
England had easily won their first four matches in the Six Nations that year (their last fixture against Ireland, which they lost, was postponed until October that year due to the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain) under Johnson as captain.
Johnson was the obvious choice of captain for the Lions having led the team four years ago, while England also looked to be by far the strongest team in Europe before the tour.
The Lions made a perfect start to the test series against the Wallabies as they won the first game 29-13, but the hosts won the second and third matches to clinch the series.
That proved to be Johnson’s last tour with the Lions, having first played with the touring side in 1993 in New Zealand.