Winning a World Cup on unfamiliar soil is something Martin Johnson and the England team of 2003 did so admirably. Prior to the tournament they received a slating on very much every aspect of their play by other teams, not because this great English team had issues but because they were so dominant that others feared them, so much so that they had to revert to poor quotations in the media.
Using the media to play mind games is something Martin Johnson, and other players in the England set up are used to, in particular Mike Tindall who has had to put up with both positive and negative press. The 2003 World Cup was probably as bad as it will ever get, the pommy bashing was relentless but one has to admit, very funny to read, no moreso than when Jonny Wilkinson’s drop kick flew between the posts.
It is an experience that Martin Johnson is used to and an experience that he will happily pass knowledge of to the new players in his team. The word “hate” is a strong one and to be used by a French coach, who is by the way rather disliked by the French media could bring with it repercussions should his team lose at Twickenham on Saturday.
Johnson was not drawn into the political side or war of words but simply stated, “I don’t know about fear, maybe there is a little bit of that there. If I read Marc’s quotes correctly they respect us as a team.”
It can be deemed that certain comments are made when someone is unsure on what to expect or perhaps to have a little fear inside them and after England’s mauling of the Italian’s last week, one could expect the French to be a little apprehensive about what they might expect during their next Six Nations Clash.
Johnson, amongst the players have all suggested that their feet are firmly on the ground following the Italy result and this new England team have already coped with mass pre build up pressure when facing Wales in the opening fixture where even Warren Gatland was reduced to using the media for pychological mind games, it didn’t work.
“We have been through one of these big build-ups already for the Wales game. That was a big challenge for us as a team and some of our individuals.
“I thought we handled it well. We are used to it. It is what we want. These big games are what we work for. There will be pressure, there will be quotes used by the media to generate the hype.”
Soon the hype will be over and everyone shall see whether this “hate” for the English can be turned into rugby, if not, then Lievremont could be one of the first pre World Cup managers to be looking for employment elsewhere.