The Monday Issue - Johnson is a winner

ENGLAND rugby enters a new phase today with Martin Johnson getting down to the serious business of winning.As the newly appointed England rugby manager Johnson's first task will be to select the right team of coaches and assistants.

Derek Davis

ENGLAND rugby enters a new phase today with Martin Johnson getting down to the serious business of winning.

As the newly appointed England rugby manager Johnson's first task will be to select the right team of coaches and assistants.

He already has a few in place, left over by Brian Ashton who is still deciding how to deal with being shoved aside much like a fly-half being swatted by a rumbling number eight.


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People feel sorry for Brian Ashton, and while in my view it is true that he was treated shabbily by the RFU, and Rob Andrew in particular, England needed to take the next step.

It is frankly ludicrous, but so typically English, to feel for Ashton. We came second in the World Cup, second in the Six Nations under him and sadly too many people feel that was good enough.

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Well coming second is not what it is all about, however nice the bloke at the top is.

To be a winner you need a winning mentality and the first thing that means is not accepting second best.

Johnson is a winner.

He is a World Cup-winning captain with England and he spent more time lifting trophies with Leicester Tigers than feeling sorry for letting anyone down.

Of course Johnson knows what it is like to lose. That only makes winning more important and he will only have winners around him.

He will have learned from Sir Clive Woodward that he does not have to do everything, but make sure he has the right people in the right places.

His status in rugby means he has a head start in terms of respect but players are quick to spot weaknesses and the new brigade coming through, the likes of Danny Cipriani, won't kow-tow just because you have a cupboard full of medals as a player.

Johnson will have to prove himself all over again as the head honcho. It won't be enough just to look mean and moody on the touchline. Just like Roy Keane he can't hurt you from there.

But he can make someone feel ten feet tall or two feet small with a simple statement or a withering look, and Johnson's man-management will be what makes or breaks him and England.

In a perverse way he will be looking for his senior players to take command, just as the England players did in the France World Cup when it was clear after the South Africa defeat that Ashton and co had lost the plot.

Just as Johnson himself did at the end of 80 minutes against Australia when simplicity and his sheer presence prompted England to beat the Aussies in their back yard to win the 2003 World Cup.

England needs winners, and Johnson is a winner.

JOE Calzaghe is not English, but he is a winner. Okay a split decision over a 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins hardly sets him apart as a boxing legend, but the Welshman is merely taking yet another step to yet another couple of world titles to go with the undisputed world Super-Middleweight title he already has.

Even with the BBC Sports' personality award, Calzaghe has not caught the public's imagination in the way a beaten Ricky Hatton has, but for those who know their boxing he is a true class act.

Undefeated in 45 professional fights, a world champion at two weights and a thoroughly down-to-earth guy that still chooses to box out of a shack in Newbridge, Wales, Calzaghe is as worthy a sporting role model as you can find.

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