Yesterday Martin Johnson was criticised for his attitude towards Mike Tindall – there has been a fair amount of criticism aimed at the current England Manager, but for me this is wide of the mark. Let’s consider the situation:

Tindall is one of the most experienced players in your squad, has bags of international experience, the respect of the rest of the squad and is used to media pressure due to other areas of his life (note I do not bring his ability into it!). Johnson’s natural reaction when confronted with photos of a drunk rugby player was, understandably, so what? It was in the aftermath of a match, one where the team performed poorly, so what’s the harm in letting them let off steam?? The guru of rugby coaching in this country (results wise at least), Clive Woodward espoused the idea that the last thing you should do after a poor performance is analyse it, especially if it is not the norm (and Englands form over 2 years suggests it was not) but to go out and forget.

Johnson had a number of options: publicly support a key player and therefore foster the them and us relationship between the squad and outsiders gaining greater unity; publicly chastise a key player for in essence behaving as most people do on a weekend; jettison him from the squad and replace him with somebody deemed not good enough just weeks previously. Management wise the logical choice, given it was during a world cup, was to go down the route of defending the player and galvanising the squad. The argument about Robbie Deans sending players home for lesser discretions is a pretty stupid one – he did it out of a world cup where squads are more fluid and pressure lessened through not having built up to a point for 2 years (assuming the Lions tour occupies thoughts post-World Cup).

Let’s criticise Johnson for poor selections (Hape et al) and a limited game plan (not utilising Chris Ashton should probably be a criminal offence) but let’s not drag him over the coals because adults decided to have some beers and behave in a not perfect way. Did it cost England the world cup? No. Did it affect them at all? Probably not. Would Graham Henry have handled it differently? No, but it wouldn’t have happened due to the culture instilled in the All Black camp over 8 years and implemented by the players, something the England team are yet to achieve.