Rugby World Cup: England must learn from 2011 - Martin Johnson

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson captained England to World Cup victory in 2003

Former captain Martin Johnson has urged England's players not to repeat the mistakes of the 2011 World Cup in the upcoming 2015 edition on home soil.

Johnson was England boss in New Zealand four years ago when off-field incidents led to heavy criticism.

Raucous behaviour in a bar and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry were among the unwelcome headlines in New Zealand.

"It's not rocket science is it; don't get into trouble," said Johnson, who captained England to victory in 2003.

Speaking to BBC Sport the former second row added: "You have to know what the line is between right and wrong.

"Ultimately when you go there [to a World Cup] you have to be able to trust everyone.

"I think the players know where the line is and they know what they need to be doing or not doing."

The Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie has recently sought Johnson's advice about how to avoid disciplinary problems this time round.

England head coach Stuart Lancaster has already dropped Leicester centre Tuilagi and Northampton hooker Dylan Hartley from his World Cup training squad following breaches of discipline.

Hartley was cut from the 50-man party after being banned for a head-butt during the Premiership semi-final between Northampton and Saracens, and Johnson has backed his successor's stance.

"Dylan has had numerous occasions when it has happened," Johnson said, whose England side were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in 2011.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson was promoting the launch of the ticket designs for the World Cup

"I think Stuart made the right call. If that happens at a key moment it could cost everyone. So Hartley almost made the choice for him."

Tuilagi caused controversy at the last World Cup when he received a police warning for jumping off an Auckland ferry, and will miss this year's tournament after pleading guilty to assault.

"It's unnecessary. He's a fantastic player but he's lost an opportunity and ultimately only got himself to blame," Johnson added.

But Johnson - who won 84 caps for England between 1993 and 2003 - says he has sympathy for the current generation of players when it comes to life away from rugby.

"They are young guys, and part of it is letting your hair down a little bit. But it is more difficult to do that now," he added.

"Everyone has a camera and you can construe one situation as something different.

"Your memories as a player are both on and off the field, and I feel sorry in a way for some of them because it is easy for someone to try and deliberately catch you out.

"It's a bit unfortunate, but that's the way it is."

Johnson is one of four World Cup winning captains featured on the official England Rugby 2015 tournament tickets, and he believes this year's showpiece is too close to call.

"I think a lot of teams will think it's their best chance in a long, long time to get to a final," he said. "So it's going to be very interesting what plays out.

"What happened in February when they played each other last time [during the Six Nations] is mainly irrelevant. Playing in a World Cup the games are huge, the pressure is massive.

"It's who can deal with that."

Top Stories