Martin Johnson (rugby union)

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Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson Leicester.jpg
Martin Johnson playing for Leicester
Full name Martin Osborne Johnson
Date of birth (1970-03-09) 9 March 1970 (age 45)
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
Playing career
Position Lock
Professional / senior clubs
Years Club / team Caps (points)
Leicester Tigers
correct as of 7 September 2011.
National team(s)
Years Club / team Caps (points)
1993, 1997, 2001
New Zeal. U21
British and Irish Lions
correct as of 12 December 2007.
Coaching career
Years Club / team
2008–2011  England

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.[2] 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 and won the league six times.

He became the new England team manager on 1 July 2008,[3] replacing the previous manager Brian Ashton. Despite no coaching experience, he was appointed team manager of the national England rugby union side in April 2008, but left the post in November 2011 following England's disappointing performance and lack of discipline at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Shirley, Solihull and lived on Solihull Road where he attended Blossomfield infant school in the West Midlands, the second of three brothers – his younger brother Will is a former back row forward. 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.

Early career[edit]

Johnson briefly played American football for the Leicester Panthers as a tight end or defensive end.[citation needed] 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.[4]

Club career[edit]

Martin Johnson and Graham Rowntree.

In late 1990, Johnson returned to England because his New Zealand girlfriend, and later wife, Kay, wanted to travel.[citation needed] He played for Leicester Tigers from 1989 to 2005.

In 1997 with the retirement of Dean Richards, Johnson was made club captain but only captained the side when Richards was not playing. In 1997 Leicester won the Pilkington Cup and reached the final of the Heineken Cup.

Johnson retired from international rugby in January 2004 but continued to play for Leicester until 2005. With his captaincy (lasting 1997 to 2003) the Leicester Tigers won four Zurich Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups.[5][6]

International career[edit]

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.

In 2002 he was the third England captain after John Pullin and Will Carling to beat Australia, South Africa and New Zealand after beating the All Blacks 31–28.

Lions Tour 1997[edit]

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[edit]

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.[7] During the match, Johnson famously told his comrades in the scrum to "get down and shove".[citation needed] 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.


He was awarded the 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. All proceeds from the match went to children's and cancer charities.

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).[8]

England Head Coach[edit]

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, despite losing 24–8 to Ireland on the final weekend of the competition where they were denied the Grand Slam.[9] 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.[10]

International matches as Head Coach[edit]

Note: World Rankings Column shows the World Ranking England was placed at on the following Monday after each of their matches

Matches (2008–2011)
Match Date Opposition Venue Score
Competition Captain World
1 14 June New Zealand Eden Park, Auckland 20–37 New Zealand test series Steve Borthwick 5th
2 21 June Lancaster Park, Christchurch 12–44 5th
3 8 November Pacific Islanders Twickenham, London 39–13 Autumn internationals Steve Borthwick 4th
4 15 November Australia Twickenham, London 14–28 5th
5 22 November South Africa Twickenham, London 6–42 5th
6 29 November New Zealand Twickenham, London 6–32 6th
7 7 February Italy Twickenham, London 36–11 2009 Six Nations Steve Borthwick 6th
8 14 February Wales Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 15–23 7th
9 28 February Ireland Croke Park, Dublin 13–14 8th
10 15 March France Twickenham, London 34–10 7th
11 21 March Scotland Twickenham, London 26–12 6th
12 6 June Argentina Old Trafford, Manchester 37–15 Argentina test series Steve Borthwick 5th
13 13 June Padre Ernesto Martearena, Salta 22–24 7th
14 7 November Australia Twickenham, London 9–18 Autumn internationals Steve Borthwick 8th
15 14 November Argentina Twickenham, London 16–9 6th
16 21 November New Zealand Twickenham, London 6–19 7th
17 6 February Wales Twickenham, London 30–17 2010 Six Nations Steve Borthwick 6th
18 14 February Italy Stadio Flaminio, Rome 17–12 6th
19 27 February Ireland Twickenham, London 16–20 6th
20 13 March Scotland Murrayfield, Edinburgh 15–15 7th
21 20 March France Stade de France, Paris 10–12 7th
22 12 June Australia Subiaco Oval, Perth 17–27 Australia test series Lewis Moody 6th
23 19 June Stadium Australia, Sydney 21–20 6th
24 6 November New Zealand Twickenham, London 16–26 Autumn internationals Lewis Moody 5th
25 13 November Australia Twickenham, London 35–18 4th
26 20 November Samoa Twickenham, London 23–13 Nick Easter 4th
27 27 November South Africa Twickenham, London 11–21 Lewis Moody 4th
28 4 February Wales Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 26–19 2011 Six Nations Mike Tindall 4th
29 12 February Italy Twickenham, London 59–13 5th
30 26 February France Twickenham, London 17–9 4th
31 13 March Scotland Twickenham, London 22–16 4th
32 19 March Ireland Croke Park, Dublin 8–24 Nick Easter 5th
33 6 August Wales Twickenham, London 23–19 2011 RWC warm-ups Lewis Moody 4th
34 13 August Millennium Stadium, Cardiff 9–19 Mike Tindall 5th
35 27 August Ireland Aviva Stadium, Dublin 20–9 5th
36 10 September Argentina Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 13–9 2011 Rugby World Cup Mike Tindall 4th
37 18 September Georgia Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 41–10 Lewis Moody 4th
38 24 September Romania Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 67–3 4th
39 1 October Scotland Eden Park, Auckland 16–12 4th
40 8 October France Eden Park, Auckland 12–19 2011 Rugby World Cup 6th

Record by country[edit]

Opponent Played Won Drawn Lost Win ratio (%) For Against
 Argentina 4 3 0 1 75 88 57
 Australia 5 2 0 3 40 96 111
 France 4 2 0 2 50 73 50
 Georgia 1 1 0 0 1000 41 10
 Ireland 4 1 0 3 25 57 67
 Italy 3 3 0 0 1000 112 36
 New Zealand 5 0 0 5 00 60 158
Pacific Islanders 1 1 0 0 1000 39 13
 Romania 1 1 0 0 1000 67 3
 Samoa 1 1 0 0 1000 23 13
 Scotland 4 3 1 0 75 79 55
 South Africa 2 0 0 2 00 17 63
 Wales 5 3 0 2 60 103 97
TOTAL 40 21 1 18 53 855 733


Personal life[edit]

Martin Johnson comes from a sporting family. His great-grandfather was a wrestler.[11]

A fan of American football, Johnson is a supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and worked as a studio analyst for ITV at Super Bowl XLI,[citation needed] and also for BBC Sport at Super Bowl XLVII.


As a player[edit]


As a manager[edit]

Rugby Union Captain
Preceded by
Matt Dawson
Lawrence Dallaglio
Matt Dawson
Neil Back
Phil Vickery
Jonny Wilkinson
Dorian West
Phil Vickery
English National Rugby Union Captain
November 1998
June–October 1999
June 2000 – April 2001
November 2001 – March 2002
November 2002 – February 2003
March–June 2003
September–October 2003
November 2003
Succeeded by
Lawrence Dallaglio
Matt Dawson
Kyran Bracken
Neil Back
Jonny Wilkinson
Jason Leonard
Phil Vickery
Lawrence Dallaglio
Preceded by
Gavin Hastings
British and Irish Lions Captain
Succeeded by
Brian O'Driscoll
Preceded by
John Eales
IRB World Cup
winning captain

Succeeded by
John Smit
(South Africa)


  1. ^ Barbarians profile
  2. ^ Team of the Pro Era Planet Rugby 5 October 2009
  3. ^ Johnson named as England supremo BBC Sport, 16 April 2008
  4. ^
  5. ^ "European glory seals Leicester treble". BBC. 19 May 2001. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  6. ^ "Tigers retain European Cup". BBC. 25 May 2002. Retrieved 7 September 2014. 
  7. ^ England down All Blacks
  8. ^ "RWC legends inducted into IRB Hall of Fame" (Press release). International Rugby Board. 26 October 2011. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  9. ^ Standley, James (18 March 2011). "2011 Six Nations: Ireland 24–8 England". BBC Sport. Retrieved 22 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Martin Johnson resigns from role as England manager
  11. ^ Johnson a giant oak right down to his roots

External links[edit]