Former England coach Andy Robinson labels Johnson's World Cup flops 'arrogant'
Andy Robinson, whose Scotland side face England on the opening day of the Six Nations championship next month, claims his opponents’ World Cup fiasco was a consequence of arrogance within Martin Johnson’s squad.
Robinson may bill himself as a ‘proud Englishman’, but nothing would please Scotland’s coach more than to make Stuart Lancaster’s task of rebuilding English morale that bit trickier by claiming revenge at Murrayfield on February 4 for the narrow victory in Auckland that ended Scottish World Cup dreams.
Speaking out: Scotland head coach Andy Robinson says a number of England players displayed arrogance which made the whole squad look bad
While Calcutta Cup battles are never for the faint-hearted, Robinson, who helped guide England to become world champions in 2003 before losing his job as head coach three years later, stoked the passions with his analysis of where it all went wrong for Johnson’s side.
‘It’s important for any team to show humility, especially when you are winning,’ he said.
‘I thought a number of the England players undermined this in the arrogance they showed. They know who they are and it was not across the board, but, unfortunately, the whole squad got tarnished.
Not impressed: Martin Johnson gives Mike Tindall a dirty look after another lacklustre World Cup showing in Auckland
‘You need self-belief in players, of course, but you also need to possess some humility, and a number of players overstepped the mark.’
Robinson, naturally enough, had sympathy for Johnson, who stood down from his manager’s job last month.
‘I sent him a text to say that if he wanted anything or just fancied a chat, he knew where I was,’ said the 47-year-old former England flanker.
‘He’s a quality person. Ten out of 13 wins last year was quite an achievement. He also won the Six Nations, don’t forget. So, yes, I wanted to get in touch.
Dejected: Robinson says some English players, seen here after crashing out of the World Cup against France, simply 'self-destructed'
‘International coaching is a tough job. You need to be able to handle a lot of aspects. But Test rugby, when it’s boiled down, is about results. You can get caught up in winning spirals and dragged down in losing spirals. If it gets out of control, as I discovered with England in 2006, you’re in trouble.
‘When you find yourself in that situation, you not only need to believe in yourself, but have a squad who have true values and are prepared to work for each other.
‘When my time ended with England six years ago, it was because we were losing Tests. They were mostly by small margins, but we were still losing.
‘What surprises me about England now is that they fell into a downward spiral while winning. It wasn’t results that undermined them but the other stuff. They self-destructed.’
Head down: Martin Johnson announced his resignation last year after much criticism of his squad's behaviour in New Zealand
Which means Robinson expects a young and relatively inexperienced England team to be fired by the ills of the past few months when they run out at Murrayfield.
‘Oh yes, the players will be coming here with all that’s happened in their armoury,’ he said. ‘All the blood-letting, all the resignations and sackings, all the criticism.
They are a good side. With the resources England have, they are never a bad side, and while people refer to their inexperience, most of the team who beat us in Auckland then lost to France in the quarter-final will be on that pitch — players with a World Cup under their belt, 20 or 30 caps to their name.
‘More than anything else, more than it’s us and it’s the Calcutta Cup, they each have a big, big point to prove.’
Chin up: Robinson, seen here consoling Chris Paterson, said the World Cup loss to England was the ‘biggest disappointment of my life’
But England will discover they are not alone in that. Scotland have a point to prove, too, after Robinson described that World Cup pool defeat as the ‘biggest disappointment of my life’.
That is a big statement considering that the same proud Englishman was hounded out of his head coach role with England with boos from a disgruntled Twickenham crowd ringing in his ears.
‘I didn’t know who I was back then,’ said Robinson.
‘It took the success of 2003, the subsequent experience of failure and then months of reflection to start the process. I now know what I stand for, and what my values are.
‘I was depressed for a couple of weeks after New Zealand. I took a long, hard look at myself and the part I played. I make sacrifices, especially regarding family, but if you’re not prepared to push yourself then don’t do it.
‘The reason it hit me so hard, and why it was the biggest blow of my career, is because if you are well beaten you hold your hands up and realise there’s much work to be done. But we got ourselves into winning positions against Argentina and England, and lost.
‘I genuinely believed we were going to win the pool, and we got ourselves into positions to do just that. In fact, I believed we would reach the semi-final stage. Ultimately, we under-achieved. The feelings of “if only” and “what if” are the worst in the world.’
It is an emotion Robinson is determined not to experience again in the Six Nations. He is revered in Scotland for the good work put in, for beating South Africa and Australia at home and Argentina, twice, away.
But in his first two Six Nations, Scotland have promised much but delivered little — in fact, just two games won out of 10. Nobody is more aware of that than the head coach.
Out with the old: The likes of Mike Tindall and co will be missing when Scotland face a new look England at Murrayfield
‘The players are not feeling hard done by. You deserve to lose a game because the score says you lost. They understand that. I have enormous belief in my squad, but we’re not where we want to be and that has to stop now.
‘Don’t think for a second the expectation in Scotland doesn’t match that in England. It does.
'The pressure’s the same. It is not a false belief when I say we’re good enough to beat every team in the Six Nations. I’ve had enough talking about potential. This time we must deliver. It starts against England.’
Something will have to give at Murrayfield on February 4, and if the rain and sleet returns to drive into the faces of 30 men on the pitch, it could prove to be particularly painful for those on the losing side.