Johnson has boss’s support

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MARTIN Johnson has been backed to continue in his job by the acting chief executive of the Rugby Football Union - before an official review into England’s World Cup failure has even begun.

England crashed out of the tournament with a 19-12 quarter-final defeat to France; their worst World Cup performance since 1999. Johnson’s contract as England manager expires on December 21 and immediately after the game he said he’d consider his options. Martyn Thomas, who drove Johnson’s appointment in 2008, said: “It’s a matter for him to make that decision as to whether he wants to continue into 2015. He has my backing, certainly.”

Thomas’ decision to open the door for Johnson to continue flies in the face of the “robust” review process announced earlier by Rob Andrew. Not for the first time in recent months, two senior RFU official are at odds with one another.

Andrew, the RFU’s operations director, will talk extensively with Johnson, the coaches and senior players before formulating England’s plan to win the World Cup in 2015. The management board, on which Thomas sits, will then be asked to vote on Andrew’s recommendations, which may or may not include retaining Johnson as manager. “It is my job to review the World Cup and make a recommendation to the management board” Andrew said.

“In July 2008 we said we’d support Martin right through to the World Cup and then reflect on what happened and go forward. Martin needs to think about it so does the RFU so we can actually move on and take things forward with this group of players.

“At some point we will make our recommendation about the shape of the England management team.

“At the very latest from January 1, 2012 we will be in a position to pick a Six Nations squad and start the campaign through the Six Nations in 2012 and through to 2015. These World Cups come around quickly and you cannot afford to lose time in terms of the management team and the players you want in that cycle.” Andrew added the RFU had learned from the way they conducted the post-World Cup review in 2007, which led to Brian Ashton being elbowed out for Johnson.

“We will do it quickly and openly,” Andrew said, although he perhaps did not expect Thomas to be as open as he was last weekend.

The RFU’s top brass are in such a state of disarray that Andrew is not even sure who will be in on the management board by the time his review is concluded. Thomas is facing a vote of no confidence from grass-roots clubs for his handling of John Steele’s departure as chief executive.