England manager Martin Johnson has insisted he has no need to restrict players’ access to their families or instigate an alcohol ban during the forthcoming World Cup in New Zealand.
The infamous ‘WAGS’ (Wives and Girlfriends) disrupted the preparations of England’s footballers at the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany.
But Johnson’s experience as a Rugby World Cup-winning captain in Australia eight years ago tells him the presence of partners can benefit a player’s on-field form.
“It is the best thing you can have,” Johnson told reporters at England’s training base here on Monday before the squad departed for New Zealand.
“I had my wife and my little girl out there in 2003 and it is part of the switching-off process. It gives you some normality.
“I don’t impose travel restrictions. The wives and girlfriends are all very sensible and very supportive and just want their partners to have a good experience in terms of playing.”
Four players, none of whom are in the World Cup squad, found themselves caught up in a sex scandal during England’s ill-fated tour of New Zealand in 2008 and Johnson said he’d repeatedly reminded his team about the need to avoid compromising situations.
“You have got to be careful — it is a different world to what it was.
“I remember going there [New Zealand] 18 years ago as a British Lion and the boys had good fun but you have got to be careful.”
Squads such as Wales, where a number of players have been involved in alcohol-related incidents, have taken it upon themselves to become ‘dry camps’ but Johnson said he saw no need to impose a booze ban.
However, the former Lions skipper made clear what the consequences would be should any of his squad step out of line.
“When I started playing rugby at senior level you were dealing with blokes,” Johnson said. “They treated us like adults and there is no reason to change that now they are professionals and things are far more organised in the game.
“They are there to make sensible decisions — if I can’t trust them, there is a simple choice for us to make.”
Johnson’s family friendly policy was backed up by England squad captain Lewis Moody, who played in the same Leicester team as the legendary lock.
“It is great to keep that normality other wise you become bogged down in rugby and everything you can overwhelm yourself at times,” the flanker, now with Bath, said.
“It is good to be able to step away and have the family and girlfriends there and Johnno has always been an advocate of that.”
As for alcohol bans, Moody said: “At the end of the day we are adults and to have ban anything — some of the guys are nearly 40, one of them [Simon Shaw] is — you can’t say ‘you are not allowed to drink anything’.
“We are all adults and the guys are very sensible and utterly professional and we trust each other completely.” — AFP