Martin Johnson (rugby union)
Martin Johnson playing for Leicester
|Full name||Martin Osborne Johnson|
|Date of birth||9 March 1970|
|Place of birth||Solihull, West Midlands, England|
|Height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Weight||18 st 9 lb (119 kg)|
|Rugby union career|
Martin Osborne Johnson CBE (born 9 March 1970) is an English former rugby union player who represented and captained England and Leicester. He is best known for captaining England to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He is regarded as one of the greatest locks ever to have played, and one of England's greatest ever players. He toured three times with the British and Irish Lions, becoming the only man to have captained them on two separate tours. He also led his club Leicester Tigers to consecutive Heineken Cup victories, won the league five times including four consecutive victories as captain and won the Pilkington Cup twice.
He became the new England team manager on 1 July 2008, replacing the previous manager Brian Ashton, but left the post in November 2011 following England's quarter final defeat at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Early career
- 3 Club career
- 4 International career
- 5 Awards
- 6 England Head Coach
- 7 Personal life
- 8 Honours
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Johnson was born in Shirley, Solihull, the second of three brothers – his younger brother Will is a former back row forward for Leicester. At the age of seven, his family moved to Market Harborough, Leicestershire, where Martin attended Ridgeway Primary School, Welland Park School and Robert Smyth School.
Johnson briefly played American football for the Leicester Panthers as a tight end or defensive end.  In 1989 he was approached by former All Black Colin Meads to try out for the King Country side in New Zealand.
Johnson's trial run was successful and he played two seasons for King Country. In 1990 he was even selected for the New Zealand under-21 side which went on a tour of Australia playing a side that included another of the all-time great lock forwards, John Eales.
1989-92: Debut and early seasons
Johnson made his Leicester debut on 14 February 1989 against the R.A.F. rugby team. His Courage League debut came against champions Bath at Welford Road, Tigers won 15-12 to deny Bath an undefeated season. Johnson did not feature for the first team again until 1990 as he played in New Zealand. His return to the first team was again against Bath; on 15 November 1990, due to an injury to Alex Gissing, Johnson started in the third round of 1990-91 Pilkington Cup and Tigers won, the first cup game that Bath had lost at The Rec since 1982.
A recurrence of a shoulder injury limited Johnson to just 5 games for Leicester in the 1990/91 season, though he did make his divisional debut for the Midlands. Johnson returned to action in August 1991 as Leicester toured Canada, but Gissing was still preferred for the early season club matches. Johnson established himself in the side in early 1991 playing 11 consecutive games from October onward and only missing 5 of the next 26 matches. Despite making his Leicester debut in the same season, 1988/89, as fellow lock Matt Poole the pair did not start a game together until 5 November 1991 against Cambridge University. They went on to play together 129 times, a club record for a second row partnership.
1992-95: Cup success and first title
Johnson was now firmly established in Leicester's first choice line up and made his international debut for England the next season. He played every game in the 1992-93 Pilkington Cup as Tigers defeated London Scottish, Nottingham, Exeter and Northampton to set up a final at Twickenham against Harlequins. Johnson scored Tigers second try, after taking the ball from a tap penalty 5 meters out, as Leicester won 23-16.
In 1993/94 season Johnson again was an ever present in Tigers run to the cup final but this time Leicester fell short to rivals Bath, losing 21-9. Leicester were also runners up in the league to Bath, Johnson played in 15 of Leicester's 18 matches.
Johnson celebrated the first of his 5 league titles in 1995. That season the league was played in two main blocks with sporadic fixtures in between; the first 9 games were played on consecutive weekends from 10 September 1994 to 5 November 1994, two games were played in January 1995, one in February 1995 and one at the beginning of March 1995 before finishing with 5 games in 6 weeks from 25 March to 29 April. Johnson played in all 9 games in the first period as Tigers won 7, drew against Bath away, and lost to Bristol to leave them 2nd in the table. Against Orrell R.U.F.C. on 14 January 1995 Johnson captained Leicester for the first time, regular captain Dean Richards and vice captain John Wells being unavailable. Tigers won 29-19.
Preparations for the 1995 Rugby World Cup which started in May were deemed all important so Johnson, along with England colleague Rory Underwood, missed Leicester's February league match against Gloucester where Leicester slip to a second defeat. Johnson returned for the matches against West Hartlepool, which saw Leicester go top, and the crucial wins against Bath and Sale. England duties meant he missed the last game of the season against Bristol which clinched the title.
1995-97: Professionalism and near misses
Open professionalism was declared in August 1995, though a moratorium was declared by the RFU until the next season. After interest from Sale, Richmond and Newcastle Johnson signed his first professional contract with Leicester in 1996, a 5 year deal worth "six figures" per year. Johnson gave up his previous career with Midland Bank.
The 1995/96 season had been another of just missing out to perennial rivals Bath. The Somerset side clinched the league on the final day of the season; despite Bath only drawing at home with Sale, Tigers were unable to beat Harlequins at Welford Road, losing 21-19. Leicester's full back John Liley had a poor day kicking at goal missing 6 of 9 kicks including a last minute attempt which would have sealed the match, and with it the title. Bath secured a league and cup double after defeating Leicester in the Cup Final. The match is perhaps best remembered for the controversial penalty try awarded by referee Steve Lander for repeated infringement which gave the match to Bath, and after the final whistle Leicester flanker Neil Back pushing Lander to the ground.
The second place finish in the league did secure Tigers place in the second season of the Heineken Cup, the English clubs were not involved in the first season. Dean Richards was still the club captain in 1996/97 but age and injury limited him to 23 starts, in his place Rory Underwood captained 5 of the first 9 games before Johnson became the regular stand in captain. He led the side in the short lived Anglo-Welsh League against Bridgend then again in Leicester's Heineken Cup debut against Leinster at Donnybrook. Johnson was an ever present in Leicester's side as they reached the 1997 Heineken Cup Final in Cardiff; Leicester beat Leinster, Scottish Borders, Pau and Llanelli in the group stage before beating Harlequins (quarter finals) and Toulouse (semi finals) to set up the final against Brive. The match was close at half time, Leicester were behind 8-6 but the French side ran riot in the second half to win 28-9.
That season Johnson captained Leicester in 12 matches including the 1997 Pilkington Cup Final, which Leicester won beating Sale 9-3 in the final. Johnson captained Leicester in the 6th Round against Bath then again in the quarter finals and semi finals.
1997-2000: Domestic Success
After returning from the victorious 1997 Lions tour Johnson was formally appointed Leicester's captain. The season started with the Heineken Cup and Leicester secured a quarter final play off after finishing second in their group containing Leinster, Toulouse and Amatori Milan. Tigers beat the Italian side twice but lost away to Leinster and at home to Toulouse. In the quarter final play off Leicester beat Glasgow 90-19 but lost in the quarter final proper away to Pau. Domestically Tigers were a mixed bag, winning 12, losing 8 and drawing 2 games to finish 4th in the Allied Dunbar Premiership. In February 1998 Johnson's predecessor as Leicester captain Dean Richards was appointed as Director of Rugby following Bob Dwyer's sacking.
Following a dispute between the English clubs and European Cup organisers there was no English involvement in the 1998-99 Heineken Cup; this led to an expanded Premiership of 14 clubs and 28 games. Tigers started the new season well with a 49-15 win against Harlequins and wins against London Scottish, Northampton and Bedford to see Tigers top the table at the end of September. Losses against Saracens and London Irish in rounds 5 & 7 saw Tigers slip to 3rd in October; Leicester regained the lead in the table after victories against Richmond and West Hartlepool and were never to lose it despite a loss to Wasps two weeks later. Dreams of the double were dashed by Richmond in the quarter finals of the cup, Johnson received a white card (at the time signifying 10 minutes in the sin bin) and during his absence the Londoners scored their two tries in a 15-13 win. The next week Johnson was sin binned again, this time in a league match against closest challengers Northampton, but even with Pat Howard also sin binned and Leicester down to 13 men for a period so outstanding was Johnson's play they won 22-15. Mathematically Johnson's second English championship title was sealed in the penultimate match of the season away to Newcastle Falcons. Johnson's form was such that he was named as Player of the Season.
By now appointed England captain Johnson missed the start of the 1999-2000 Premiership season due to the 1999 Rugby World Cup. He returned in the 7th game of the season a 12-all draw against Newcastle that left Leicester in 4th position. Johnson then missed much of the season, including the start of the Six Nations, with an Achilles tendon injury. Returning to the first team against Bedford in March Johnson captained Leicester in the last 9 games of the league season as Leicester retained their Premiership crown.
2001 & 2002: European Champion
Having dominated domestic rugby for the previous two years Leicester were desperate to avenge their 1997 Heineken Cup Final defeat and claim their first European title. Local rivals Northampton Saints had claimed the previous season's title with perennial rivals Bath claiming the title in 1998. Tigers were drawn with Pau, Glasgow and Pontypridd in their Heineken Cup pool. Johnson played in the first four games of the group; wins at home to Pau and away to Glasgow before a loss in Wales to Pontypridd that was quickly avenged a week later at Welford Road. On 9 November 2000 Johnson was one of only three then current players named in Leicester's Team of the Century.
Johnson missed the final two pool games and the quarter final against Swansea due to a 5 week ban picked up against Saracens in the Tetley's Bitter Cup quarter final. Domestically Leicester were again top of the table and at this stage 11 points clear of Northampton in second place. The gap was pushed to 18 points on 10 March 2001 when Tigers beat Northampton at Franklin's Gardens and Johnson's fourth English league title was formally sealed on 17 March 2001.
With the domestic title sealed, Johnson led Leicester into the Heineken Cup semi finals against Gloucester. Leon Lloyd's try gave Leicester a 19-15 win, despite Johnson spending time in the sin bin, to set up the final in the Parc des Princes against Stade Francais. In the final Johnson was again sin binned, for punching Christophe Juillet, but Tigers prevailed winning 34-30 to secure the club's first continental title. Tigers had won the inaugural Premeriship play offs the week before so also sealed an unprecedented treble.
Leicester became the first side to retain a European title after beating Munster in 2002. Johnson also led Leicester in retaining their Premiership title. Returning from the 2001 Lions tour Johnson was rested for the first game of the Premiership season and was kept on the bench for a further two games, not making his seasonal debut until 22 September 2001 against Bath. The next two weeks he started Leicester's Heineken Cup pool games against Llanelli and Calvisano but shortly after picked up the injury that would keep him out of England's rearranged Six Nations game with Ireland.
Johnson returned to fitness to see Leicester through to the Heineken Cup semi finals against Llanelli but as with the season before missed mid-season matches due to a ban picked up in a game against Saracens. The ban was controversial as it was felt that the RFU did not have the right to hold the hearing, the incident having been seen and dealt with by way of a sin bin at the time, and that having then decided to ban Johnson he was only banned for Leicester game becoming available once England's games resumed.
Johnson though returned to Leicester after the Six Nations and helped Leicester secure their fourth successive title against Newcastle on 13 April 2002 at Welford Road. Two weeks later Johnson captained Leicester as they traveled to Nottingham's City Ground for the Heineken Cup semi final against Llanelli. Tigers won thanks to a Tim Stimpson penalty which hit both the post and the cross bar before going through the posts. Tigers again victorious in the final winning 15-9 against Munster; the match is best remembered for Austin Healey's try and Neil Back's handling in a last-minute scrum on the Tigers' line. Though Johnson did have a try of his own ruled out after 10 minutes, with Tigers also having a first minute score from Freddie Tuilagi ruled out.
2003-05: Final Seasons
Johnson continued to play for Leicester until 2005. Leicester struggled after winning the 2002 League and European double, slumping to 6th in the 2002-03 Premiership season. As focus was on Johnson and co. in Australia for the 2003 Rugby World Cup Leicester's troubles continued, finding themselves in 11th place when their world champions returned. Dean Richards was sacked with John Wells his assistant taking charge. Wells led Leicester into 5th and qualification for the 2004-05 Heineken Cup. Johnson announced this was to be his final season along with Neil Back, who was also retiring, and coach Wells, who was leaving Leicester to join the England coaching staff. Tigers topped the table and went straight to the 2005 Premiership Final against Wasps. However Johnson was not to have a fairy-tale ending, Wasps winning 39-14. In the European Cup Leicester had a memorable victory away to Leinster in the quarter finals but were defeated by Toulose 27-19 at the Walkers Stadium.
Johnson had made his test debut against France in January 1993 under dramatic circumstances. He was due to play in another game when he was unexpectedly summoned to Twickenham to replace the injured Wade Dooley. With barely any proper preparation (he had a last-minute line-out session with his new teammates before the game), Johnson was thrown into the deep end. An early clash of heads with French prop Laurent Seigne momentarily left Johnson dazed, but he recovered and went on to play superbly as England won 16–15. He then went on to become part of the side that won the 1995 Grand Slam. He was also called up to the 1993 Lions tour as a replacement, playing in two tests. Lawrence Dallaglio was appointed England captain by new England coach Clive Woodward. However, Johnson took the captaincy in 1999 after Dallaglio was caught in a News of the World sting operation. Under Johnson's leadership, England moved away from being a forward-dominated side and towards the 15-man rugby that Woodward wanted them to play. He was again asked to captain the Lions tour to Australia in 2001, becoming the only man to captain them twice. The tour was hugely successful financially; however, they lost 2–1 to a seasoned Australian side captained by John Eales and coached by Rod Macqueen.
Lions Tour 1997
Johnson was selected to captain the 1997 British Lions tour of South Africa. The Lions convincingly won the first test at Newlands 25–16 with Neil Jenkins kicking five penalties and Matt Dawson and Alan Tait scoring tries. Despite scoring three tries in the second test at Durban, the Springboks suffered from some woeful goal kicking and failed to land any penalties or conversions, while for the Lions Neil Jenkins once again kicked five penalties to level the scores at 15–15 before Jeremy Guscott dropped a goal for an 18–15 lead for the Lions. The Lions then held off a ferocious South African fightback, Lawrence Dallaglio putting in a magnificent try-saving tackle, to win the match 18–15 and take the series. The third test at Ellis Park proved a match too far for the Lions squad and they lost 35–16. The tour was a triumph for the Lions management of Fran Cotton (manager), Ian McGeechan (head coach), Jim Telfer (assistant coach) and especially the captain Johnson.
Rugby World Cup 2003
The 2003 Grand Slam season was followed by a successful warm up tour to New Zealand and Australia. Among the highlights was England's 15–13 win over the All Blacks, during which the 6-man England scrum (with 2 back row forwards in the sin bin), held off sustained pressure to clinch England's first win over the All Blacks in New Zealand since 1973. During the match, Johnson famously told his comrades in the scrum to "get down and shove". When asked about what was going through his head in the scrum he replied "my spine". In England's 20–17 victory over Australia, Johnson also performed at a monumental level, leading the former Australian captain, John Eales (who retired in 2001), to commend his display as 'among the best ever by a lock forward'. They took this into the 2003 World Cup, where they won crucial matches against South Africa, Wales and France, beating Australia in the final to win the cup with an extra time drop goal.
Johnson was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1997 following his success in captaining the victorious 1997 British Lions tour to South Africa.
After the 2003 Rugby World Cup victory he was awarded the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2004 New Year honours and was second in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards behind Jonny Wilkinson. Johnson's testimonial match and farewell to competitive rugby, held at Twickenham on 4 June 2005, was one of the biggest rugby events of the year. It was historic in another way as the match marked the return of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu after a recent kidney transplant. Johnson's XV defeated Lomu's 33–29.
On 24 October 2011, at the IRB Awards in Auckland, Johnson was inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame alongside all other Rugby World Cup-winning captains and head coaches from the tournament's inception in 1987 through 2007 (minus the previously inducted John Eales).
England Head Coach
In November 2006 it was rumoured the then England head rugby coach, Andy Robinson, was to be sacked and Johnson was one of many names speculated by the press as his replacement. The Rugby Football Union eventually selected Brian Ashton for the role.
Johnson was appointed England team manager in April 2008. England started the 2008 Autumn internationals by beating the Pacific Islands 39–13. That was followed with a loss to Australia, then a 42–6 defeat to South Africa and then another loss this time 32–6 against New Zealand at Twickenham.
England had four wins under Johnson going into 2009; in the 2009 Six Nations Championship they beat Italy 36–11, France 34–10 and Scotland 26–12 but were defeated by Ireland by 14–13 and to Wales by 23–15. They did however come second in the 2009 Six Nations ahead of 2008 Champions Wales and scored the most points and tries in the tournament.
In the 2010 Six Nations England won their first two games against Wales and Italy, losing against Ireland, drawing with Scotland and losing their final game against France, allowing the French to win a Grand Slam.
In 2011, Johnson led a new-look England side to win the 2011 Six Nations title, thanks to wins over Wales, Italy, France and Scotland, though a 24–8 loss to Ireland on the final weekend of the competition denied them the Grand Slam. He resigned on 16 November 2011 following England's poor performance on and off the field at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
International matches as Head Coach
Note: World Rankings Column shows the World Ranking England was placed at on the following Monday after each of their matches
Record by country
|Opponent||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Win ratio (%)||For||Against|
- Six Nations Championship
- Winners: 2011
- Runners-up: 2009
- Calcutta Cup
- Winners: 2009, 2010, 2011
- Cook Cup
- Winners: 2010
As a player
- Premiership 1994-95, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02
- Heineken Cup 2001, 2002
- Pilkington Cup 1993, 1997
- Six Nations 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2003
- Grand Slam 1995, 2003
- Triple Crown 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003
- World Cup 2003
- New Zealand tour 1993 as replacement, losing 2–1
- South African tour 1997 as captain, winning 2–1
- Australia tour 2001 as captain, losing 2–1
As a manager
- Six Nations 2011
|Rugby Union Captain|
|English National Rugby Union Captain
June 2000 – April 2001
November 2001 – March 2002
November 2002 – February 2003
|British and Irish Lions Captain
|IRB World Cup
|English national rugby coach
- Barbarians profile
- Team of the Pro Era Planet Rugby 5 October 2009
- "The greatest second-rows of all time: Martin Johnson". Rugby World. 15 September 2016.
- "Martin Johnson profile from ESPNscrum". ESPNscrum. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "Martin Johnson: Six of the best". BBC. 15 May 2005. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "Martin Johnson lauded as greatest England player but ultimately he 'didn't have the CV' for manager's job". The Daily Telegrpah. 16 November 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2016.
- Johnson named as England supremo BBC Sport, 16 April 2008
- "Martin Johnson factfile". The Independent. 16 April 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Martin Johnson - Doctor of Laws - Rugby Union player and Team Manager of the England Rugby Union fifteen". Leicester University. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "The Greatest: Number four lock". Planet Rugby. 29 October 2009. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 493. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 246-249. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- Johnson, Martin. Martin Johnson Autobiography. ISBN 9780755319596.
- "Rugby". The Spectator. 17 May 1996. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- "Rugby Union: Leicester's Johnson is player of season". 19 May 1999. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Johnson confident of recovery". ESPNscrum. 6 January 2000. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
- "Tigers Name Team of the Century at Glittering Evening". Leicester Tigers. 9 November 2000. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- "Johnson banned for 35 days". BBC.co.uk. 28 December 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- "RFU punish Johnson with 35-day ban". The Telegraph. 28 December 2000. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- Farmer, Stuart; Hands, David. Tigers - Official history of Leicester Football Club. The Rugby DevelopmentFoundation. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-9930213-0-5.
- "Leicester rule in bear pit". 19 May 2001. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
- "European glory seals Leicester treble". BBC. 19 May 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- "Tigers retain European Cup". BBC. 25 May 2002. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
- "Punch that knocked the game silly". The Independent. 24 February 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "The kick that will rebound around Europe". The Guardian. 29 April 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "Leicester break Llanelli hearts". BBC. 28 April 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "Back-hander seals victory". The Guardian. 26 May 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "Tigers are Heineken champs once again". ESPNscrum. 25 May 2002. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- England down All Blacks
- "Sport salutes hard-hitting stars". BBC. 31 December 1997. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "Rugby heroes top New Year Honours". BBC. 31 December 2003. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "Lomu to light up Johnson farewell". BBC. 3 June 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "Johnson XV 33-29 Lomu XV". BBC. 4 June 2005. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- "RWC legends inducted into IRB Hall of Fame" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 26 October 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
- Standley, James (18 March 2011). "2011 Six Nations: Ireland 24–8 England". BBC Sport. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- Martin Johnson resigns from role as England manager
- Johnson a giant oak right down to his roots