There would be no storybook ending to Martin Johnson’s playing career as his Leicester side were beaten 39-14 by Wasps in the Premiership final on this day in 2005 – May 14. But much as he would have loved one, Johnson did not need another winners’ medal to confirm his status as one of the greatest locks to ever play the game.
Besides, he had already had one fairytale moment as his final moment in an England shirt had been to lift the World Cup after the dramatic 20-17 victory over Australia in the 2003 final. Johnson’s career began back in 1989, playing in a 15-12 win over Bath to deny them an undefeated season, and winning quickly became a habit.
He spent his entire career with Leicester, winning five league titles and captaining them on their remarkable run as they won four consecutive crowns between 1999 and 2002, at the same time as becoming the first side to retain the European Cup, lifting it in 2001 and 2002.
Johnson made his England debut in 1993, the same year he was a late call-up for the British Lions tour to New Zealand. He would captain the Lions for their victorious tour of South Africa in 1997 and four years later became the first man to lead the Lions twice as he captained the tour to Australia.
In between times, he had been named England captain in 1999, leading the side in 39 of his 84 appearances. It would all climax in 2003 as England won the Grand Slam in the Six Nations before the victorious World Cup campaign.
Johnson would go on to become England team manager between 2008 and 2011, highlighted by victory in the 2011 Six Nations, but he has not returned to the game since leaving his post later that year except for some work as a Six Nations pundit.
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now