On this day in 2008: Martin Johnson named England team manager

On this day in 2008: Martin Johnson named England team manager

World Cup-winning captain Martin Johnson was named as team manager of England on this day in 2008.

Johnson officially took the reins on July 1 as Brian Ashton’s reign as head coach came to an end, but over the next three and a half years Johnson would be unable to bring the same golden touch he had enjoyed as a player to a management role.

In his first game, England looked rusty but managed to overcome the Pacific Islands in the first of four autumn internationals.

Rugby Union – Investec Challenge Series 2008 – England v New Zealand – Twickenham
A heavy defeat to South Africa was an early setback for Martin Johnson (David Davies/PA)

However, the uphill task facing Johnson was laid bare after defeats to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The 42-6 loss to the world champions South Africa was the heaviest England had suffered at Twickenham.

In 2009, England defeated Italy, France and Scotland but were edged out in Wales and Ireland as they finished second in the Six Nations. Later in the year a win over Argentina was followed by defeat to the same opponents in the southern hemisphere before losses against Australia and New Zealand.

In 2010, England finished a disappointing third in the Six Nations with only two wins.

Rugby Union – Investec Challenge Series 2010 – England v Australia – Twickenham
In 2010, Martin Johnson oversaw England’s first win in the southern hemisphere since the World Cup seven years earlier (Clive Gee/PA)

After another defeat to Australia a few months later in Perth, they bounced back in Sydney, recording a 21-20 victory for their first triumph in the southern hemisphere since their World Cup final success seven years earlier. 

They produced another clinical display at Twickenham to see off the Wallabies, albeit either side of reversals against New Zealand and South Africa.

England looked to be clicking into gear when they claimed a rare win in Cardiff at the start of the 2011 Six Nations. The last time they beat Wales on their own turf was in 2003, when England – captained by Johnson – did the grand slam.

Rugby Union – RBS 6 Nations Championship 2011 – England Celebrate Winning the 6 Nations Championship – Four Seasons Hotel
Martin Johnson’s England celebrated a Six Nations title in 2011 (David Rogers/PA)

History looked to be repeating as Italy, France and Scotland were brushed aside. However, they came a cropper at the final hurdle as they were outclassed by Ireland in Dublin. Nevertheless, the four wins earned England a first Six Nations title in eight years.

Next came the World Cup. While England had four wins in four to top their group, they were given stern tests by Argentina and Scotland. And their shortcomings were ruthlessly exploited by France in a 19-12 quarter-final loss.

Johnson’s position came under further scrutiny after a number of off-field controversies, with captain Mike Tindall and Manu Tuilagi fined for separate indiscretions and others reprimanded during the tournament. A month after defeat to Les Bleus, Johnson stood down as England manager.