Former England manager Martin Johnson defends World Cup regime

Former England boss Martin Johnson has defended his regime following leaked reports into their World Cup failure.

Johnson said the players he had spoken to were "horrified" by the way in which their feedback had been reported  .

"It is not a true reflection of the squad," Johnson said, while also admitting it was "one of the worst things I've experienced in the game.

"They are opinions, certainly not truths. They were written in an emotive time for everyone post-tournament."

You make one wrong step in a tournament like this playing for a team like England and it goes right to the top of the game and the ramifications are huge

Martin Johnson

The reports were based on anonymous interviews given by players who were part of England's World Cup squad, which was knocked out in the quarter-finals by France - and the Rugby Football Union will investigate who leaked them.

"The way they have been leaked is detrimental to the game," Johnson said. "The way it has been reported, the imbalance, is one of the worst things.

"We made mistakes as a group and how we handled some of them we could have done differently, but the way they are being reported now is so far inaccurate and does not reflect on the team or individuals."

Johnson did concede that off-field events such as Mike Tindall's night out in Queenstown and reports that James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley verbally harrassed a female hotel worker,  damaged the team.

He added: "Certain actions by certain players did let the group down and led us to be portrayed as something we weren't and something they aren't. We didn't help that at the time - so of course there were frustrations.

"How much that affected things on the field, it's difficult to judge.

"I know it probably affected certain individuals and would have had an effect on the team and eroded a little bit of trust.

"But, as a coaching group, we didn't feel it was having a huge effect on us as we went through to the final games.

ENGLAND'S WORLD CUP WOES

  • 13 Sep: Lock Courtney Lawes handed two-game ban for kneeing opponent
  • 15 Sep: Martin Johnson defends players' night out
  • 29 Sep: RFU suspends two coaches for illegally switching balls
  • 2 Oct: Three players reprimanded for comments to a female hotel worker
  • 3 Oct: Delon Armitage receives one-match ban for high tackle
  • 4 Oct: Manu Tuilagi fined for breaching sponsorship rules
  • 9 Oct: Tuilagi is formally warned by police and fined £3,000 by England rugby officials after jumping from a ferry in Auckland
  • 16 Nov: Johnson resigns
  • 23 Nov: Damning reports from England's players on the campaign are leaked
  • 24 Nov: Attack coach Brian Smith resigns and Rob Andrew says the RFU has 'hit rock bottom'

"Some players were clearly frustrated early in the trip and that was dealt with.

"I spoke with them after the Queenstown incident and left them in no uncertain terms as to where I thought they were at that point. After that there wasn't an issue until the end of the tournament."

Johnson agreed with the summation of RFU elite rugby director Rob Andrew that England had reached "rock bottom".

"That's probably true and it's disappointing because the England team should be up there [with the best in the world]," he continued.

"The key thing is hindsight, that's what we said right at the start.

"You make one wrong step in a tournament like this playing for a team like England and it goes right to the top of the game and the ramifications are huge, which maybe some of our players didn't quite understand until it happened.

"If I had my time again I'd do things slightly differently but I know why I did what I did.

"I'm disappointed because we could have gone a lot further in the tournament. What has been reported is nowhere near the truth of it.

"To me the way it has been reported is so inaccurate I felt I had to come here [to be interviewed] for the good of not only the management group but the players and the whole game. The saddest thing for me is it doesn't reflect well on the whole game right now."

Johnson also revealed that the female hotel worker who was allegedly verbally harrassed by Haskell, Ashton and Hartley had asked for compensation.

"We did everything we could do," he said. "The players apologised but then three weeks after the event lawyers were demanding compensation.

"If someone says to you 'I would like some compensation or I may sell my story to the papers', that is not a particularly nice thing to be involved with.

"The first thing we said was that you need to get some independent legal advice. These are the options that are open to you, none of which were great.

"(We said paying the compensation money) was an option that you had.

"It was not an easy time for anyone."