Martin Johnson

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Martin Johnson

Martin Osborne Johnson (born 9 March, 1970) is a former England rugby union player and captain. Considered one of the greatest lock forwards of all time, Johnson was known for his strong leadership and "no-nonsense" approach to the game. Johnson led the England side to a Grand Slam and World Cup in 2003. He toured three times with the British Lions, becoming the only man to have captained them on two separate tours. He also led his club Leicester Tigers to back-to-back Heineken Cup victories and won the league six times.


Johnson was born in Solihull in the West Midlands, the second-oldest of three brothers - his younger brother Will plays back row forward for Leicester. He has played for Leicester Tigers since 1989. Although in 1989, Johnson was approached by former All Black Colin Meads to try out for King Country side in New Zealand. Johnson's try out was successful and he played two seasons for King Country. In 1990, he was selected for the New Zealand under 21 side which went on a tour of Australia. However, in late 1990 he returned to England as his New Zealand wife Kay wanted to live in the UK.

He made his England debut in 1993, and was part of the side that won the 1995 Grand Slam. He also was called up to the 1993 Lions tour as a replacement, playing twice.

In 1997 with the retirement of Dean Richards, Johnson was made club captain but only captained the side when Richards was not playing. In 1997 Leicester won the Pilkington Cup and reached the final of the Heineken Cup. Despite not having international captaincy experience, he was selected by Ian McGeechan as the captain of the 1997 British Lions tour to South Africa. The Lions as underdogs won the series 2-1.

Returning to domestic rugby, Lawrence Dallaglio was appointed England captain by new England coach Clive Woodward. However, Johnson took the captaincy in 1999 after Dallaglio was caught in a Honey Trap by the News of the World. Under Johnson's leadership England moved away from the 15-man rugby that Woodward originally wanted them to play and became a more forward-dominated side with Johnson at its core.

Johnson was again asked to captiain the Lions in 2001, beomcing the only man to captain them twice, but the tour was not succesful and they lost 2-1.

In 2003 England won the Six Nations Grand Slam that had eluded them. This was followed by a succesful warm up tour to New Zealand in which a 6-man England scrum (with 2 flankers in the sin bin) famously held off last minute All Black pressure. They took this into the 2003 World Cup, where they won crucial matches agains South Africa, France and Australia to win the cup with an injury time drop goal. He retired from international rugby in January 2004 but continued to play for Leicester.

Under his captaincy (1997 to 2003) the Leicester Tigers won four Zurich Premiership titles and two Heineken Cups. In February 2004 he took over the captaincy again in the aftermath of the departure of Dean Richards, the director of rugby.

He was made a CBE in the 2004 New Year honours and was second in the Sports Personality of the Year awards behind Jonny Wilkinson.

His testimonial match and farewell to competitive rugby, held at Twickenham on June 4, 2005, was one of the biggest rugby events of the year. It was historic in another way; the match marked the return of All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu after a recent kidney transplant. Johnson's XV defeated Lomu's 33-29. All proceeds from the match went to children's and cancer charities.

External links

  • Testimonial website (
  • Leicester Tigers profile (
  • Sporting Heroes (
  • Six of the best Martin Johnson performances (
Preceded by:
Lawrence Dallaglio
English national rugby captain
Followed by:
Lawrence Dallaglio
it:Martin Johnson

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