Martin Johnson image

Martin Johnson

Leadership, Martin Johnson epitomises the Heart of the Midlands mindset

Martin Johnson born 9 March 1970

Born in Solihull, Johnson was raised in Market Harborough. He represented and captained England and Leicester in a career spanning sixteen seasons.

Since making his debut in 1989, Martin Johnson is regarded as one of England’s greatest players of all time. Johnson played a total of 362 games with his only senior club team, Leicester Tigers and 84 with the England national team. He was England captain for 39 matches including the 2003 Six Nations Championship and the 2003 Rugby World Cup in which England were crowned champions.


Martin Johnson the 'All Black'

On the domestic stage he played all his club rugby for Leicester Tigers, making his debut in 1989. In the early stages of his career, Martin also played American Football with the Leicester Panthers. He was playing American football when offered a tryout for New Zealand's King Country rugby side. As a 19-year-old he spent two years in New Zealand, honing his craft. He met his future wife there before returning to the UK. In 1990 he was even selected for the All Blacks under-21 side which went on a tour of Australia. Playing in a side that included another of the all-time great lock forwards, John Eales. On his return from New Zealand he continued a 16-year love affair with Welford Road, playing 362 games for the club. In a decorated domestic career Johnson led them to four Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups.


1990 and back to Tigers, and a first England Cap

Johnson returned to the UK in 1990 and continued what would be a 16-year love affair with Welford Road. He was a try scorer in the final when Leicester won the 1993 Pilkington Cup. His international debut was against France in the 1993 Five Nations Championship. England coach Geoff Cooke called him up as a late replacement for the injured Wade Dooley. Thrown straight into the starting line-up, the lock held his own as England notched a narrow 16-15 victory.

Rugby World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson talks about his first experience of playing for Leicester Tigers in France.

He was subsequently called up to the 1993 Lions tour to New Zealand as a replacement and featured in two Tests. Johnson was a key member of the Tigers side which won the 1994-95 Courage League. Johnson was ever-present as England won the Grand Slam in the 1995 Five Nations Championship. England secured the Grand Slam and a fourth place finish at the Rugby World Cup in 1995 with Johnson at the heart of both campaigns and another Five Nations title followed in 1996.


Captain of victorious British Lions tour to South Africa

His leadership potential was identified by Lions coach Ian McGeechan who handed him the honour of leading the tour to the home of the then world champions - South Africa. It was here that Johnson's reputation took a big step towards legendary status as he steered the Lions to an historic 2-1 series triumph. Johnson was awarded an OBE by The Queen in 1997.

MARTIN JOHNSON - A veteran of three Lions tours, the last captain to lead the tourists to a series victory in 1997 in South Africa gives us his views on what it will take for the Lions to win this time around.

Following Lawrence Dallaglio's brush with the tabloids in 1999, Johnson was given the captaincy of England by coach Clive Woodward and the duo would lead England through their most successful period ever. Six Nations titles followed in 2000.


The first player to captain the Lions on two occasions

In 2001 Johnson became the first player to captain the Lions on two occasions and two years later, following a second England Grand Slam, he was part of a rearguard action that defeated the All Blacks on their own soil for the first time since 1973. John Eales called his performance “among the best ever by a lock forward”. In a glittering career Johnson was also part of two Grand Slam-winning England sides in 1995 and again as captain in 2003.

Martin Johnson: "We'll Bat!!" | British & Irish Lions. Phil Vickery recounts his memories from the 2001 British & Irish Lions Rugby Tour of Australia - including Martin Johnson's joke with the Aussie Captain John Eales.


England win the World Cup in 2003

The 2003 Rugby World Cup Final was his 84th and final international match. The match was played between England and Australia on 22 November 2003 at Telstra Stadium in Sydney in front of a crowd of 82,957.

Wilkinson drops for World Cup glory. England's sensational win over Australia the 2003 Rugby World Cup final, sealed by a last-gasp drop-goal from Jonny Wilkinson.  The former England captain, Martin Johnson, recalls the World Cup and how England became World Champions!

England won 20–17 to win the Webb Ellis Cup for the first time. Millions watched around the world as captain Martin Johnson became the first player to lead a northern hemisphere side to the world title.

In the aftermath of England’s Rugby World Cup triumph in 2003, he was later honoured with a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2004 Queen's New Year Honours List, for his services to Rugby Union.

Buckingham Palace, England rugby team captain Martin Johnson showing Queen Elizabeth I the trophy won in World Cup


Martin Johnson rugby’s greatest leader on the pitch

When Martin Johnson held aloft the William Webb Ellis trophy in 2003, it marked his 39th Test as captain, of which England won 34. Johnsons leadership credentials had been apparent since 1997 when Sir Ian McGeechan, who wanted a towering Lions captain to be able to look down on Springbok skipper Gary Teichmann, picked the Leicester lock to lead the side into what ended up as a triumphant series.

Who can forget historic moments like Martin Johnson, captain of the only northern hemisphere team to lift the Webb Ellis Cup. Phillippe Bernat-Salles’ famous ‘bird’ celebration after his winning try against New Zealand, the biggest turnaround the rugby world has seen. Or the delight on the Japanese fans’ faces when they defeated the mighty South Africans in the last Rugby World Cup™. History will unfold again.

During his club career he played 362 games for Leicester, his only senior club, and as well as the cup in 1993 and the league in 1995, he was also captain of the side as they won the 1997 Pilkington Cup and four consecutive Premiership titles between 1999–2002, and became the first side to retain the European Cup, winning in 2001 and 2002. His final season was in 2004-05.


Martin Johnson a great leader off the pitch

After driving England to their defining moment in Sydney, Johnson retired at the end of that season. Despite his lack of coaching experience, he became England manager. In 2008, Martin was appointed the England team manager. In his first game toward the end of the year, his team beat the Pacific Islanders with an incredible score of 39-13. While being led by Martin, the team won four championships, including the 2009 Six Nations Championship. He resigned after a disappointing World Cup later that year.


Martin Johnson – the importance of teamwork

Former British & Irish Lions captain Martin Johnson discusses just how important team spirit is to rugby players.



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