‘Don’t judge Johnno on World Cup’
DAN Hipkiss harbours hopes of returning to the international fold and the country’s failure against France in the World Cup Quarter Finals could give England’s fringe players hope.
DAN Hipkiss harbours hopes of returning to the international fold – and he wants to play for his country under much-criticised head coach Martin Johnson.
The former Diss player won the last of his 13 England caps under Johnson and has given a glowing endorsement of “Johnno”, whose appointment as national team coach represented his first foray into management at any level.
“In Martin, we have the perfect man for the job and I don’t think people should judge him on the World Cup,” said the 29-year-old, who scored the decisive try in Leicester’s 33-27 victory over Saracens in the 2010 Premiership final.
“He is a players’ coach and knows what it is like to be in a pressurised situation as a player. I don’t think there is anyone out there better to do the job.
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“He demands excellence in all areas, just like he did when he was a player, and will bring you into line if needs be but on the flip-side, he won’t give you a hard time if things are not working out for you.
“Every player wants to play for him and you have got to look at the strides England have made since he was appointed as manager (in 2008).”
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Since Johnson’s arrival as manager, his win record of 55% reads better than the two men in the Twickenham hotseat before him, Brian Ashton and Andy Robinson.
However, his record pales into insignificance compared to World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward, who had a win percentage of over 70%.
Johnson’s management off the field has also been scrutinised and England’s players courted a fair amount of controversy and column inches in British tabloids as a result of their exploits in New Zealand, ahead of the 19-12 defeat to Les Bleus.
But Hipkiss said: “I don’t think it should be doom and gloom, we won and performed well against Scotland (in the World Cup) and defeated Ireland, in Ireland, and Wales in the warm-up games,” said the 29-year-old.
“We almost came back in that France quarter-final and I have been in the situation the England players found themselves in where in the first-half nothing goes right for you, and everything goes right for the opposition.
“Before that, in the group games, you had the small rugby nations like Georgia, who were fully committed, and Argentina, who always raise their game for the World Cup and that makes it tough as it is difficult to be on your ‘A-game’ all the time.
“As for the (tabloid) stories, I don’t think they would have affected the camp at all and Johnno would have got all the players ready.”
Hipkiss, who played in the 2007 World Cup, is currently enjoying his first season at Bath in the Aviva Premiership and said he would never rule out a return to the international fold.
He added: “I have never given up hope and everyone wants to play at the highest level but I am happy at Bath, I have played the last nine games, and hopefully I will get another run-out at the weekend.”