Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

True Great Johno Calls It Right One More Time

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

True Great Johno Calls It Right One More Time

Article excerpt


AS a self-confessed sporting anorak, Martin Johnson knows this is the time to end his international rugby career.

Leicester legend Johnson - specialist subject American Football - could produce an entire book of trivia questions based on his own career, but you would struggle to get him to admit that fact.

He will collect the Rugby Union Writers' Club award tonight in London for an unprecedented third time in four years to add to an amazing list of honours in a ten-year England career that has brought him 84 caps.

Only Jason Leonard and Rory Underwood have played more times for England, while only Will Carling has skippered the team more times.

Add the MBE - an upgrade on his earlier OBE - the Lions Test series win as captain in 1997 against South Africa (he became the only man to captain successive Lions tours in 2001), the 2003 Grand Slam and, oh yes, the small matter of becoming the first England captain to lift the Rugby World Cup and you can see why Johnson has come to the conclusion that it won't get any better than this. He's right.

His first cap came against France on Saturday 16 January 1993 and he is expected to signal the end of the road on Saturday 17 January 2004 because this is a 33-year-old who revels in the moment, not the rose-tinted memories of what has been achieved.

The decision will be nothing to do with rugby, the game he has played on the very edge for his entire career.

He is quitting to spend more time with wife Kay and young daughter Molly.

That is why he could not contemplate another summer on the other side of the Equator, playing two Tests against the All Blacks plus a repeat of the World Cup final with Australia.

Johnson has seen off a generation of upstarts who have heard about the reputation but still felt the need to have a go.

These poor souls didn't believe the talk and chanced their arm.

What they got, on many occasions, was a great big Johnson arm coming the other way.

Yes, he overstepped the mark on several occasions and seemed to have a particular problem with Saracens, getting into trouble for foul play against Duncan McRae and Robbie Russell. …

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