Martin Johnson, a Mastercard ambassador for the 2015 World Cup and former England manager, reflects on his reign with a mixture of regret and defiance.
The bitter memories of the 2011 World Cup-fallout still linger when he conducts his first media interview since he stepped down.
The England’s campaign in New Zealand was blotted by disciplinary cases that reached their peak when some players got into a drinking spree in Queenstown.
Johnson insists the events in Queenstown have been distorted by misinformation and that his gravest error was his handling of the aftermath.
Asked if he was hurt by the way it ended, Johnson said: “The worst thing was the way the game got dragged through the mud.
“It wasn’t actually a true reflection of those people and what we were about, but you’re fighting a tidal wave almost at that point because everyone ‘knows’ what’s happened because they’ve read about it.
“People start telling me what it was like when I was there…..that’s the battle you have to win.
“That was my mistake; you have to win that battle as well. It’s almost like a sales job.
“You see some organizations that are perceived a certain way publicly when actually they’re not like that – good and bad because it goes both ways.
“In 2003 once you’ve won the World Cup, everything is portrayed as being great and a perfect working machine.
“But of course it wasn’t – we were all human beings, we all made mistakes, had our frailties and did similar things that the boys did in 2011.
“It just didn’t get to that level and didn’t get recorded. And then you win, so everything is all right.”
Johnson believes the strength of criticism received was undeserved. He knows many of the wounds were self-inflicted as the England team was aware of the pitfalls awaiting in New Zealand.
“We got caught out off the field. We were aware of what could happen and warned the players, but it still happened,” Johnson said.
“The disappointing thing is that it’s something we fell into even though we knew it was there.
“We warned the players about it and you think you’ve covered it off, when maybe you haven’t covered it off. Maybe you have to say it every day.
“The difficult thing is that it gets perceived as something that it wasn’t really.
“But if enough people say it is something, then everyone believes that is what it was. You’re fighting a difficult battle.
“I’m not saying that things didn’t happen, but I’m saying the perception is that that was the only thing that happened.
“That became the story rather than the rugby and that’s what gets remembered.”
Johnson takes pride in masterminding England’s only RBS 6 Nations title since 2003 and highlights the number of players he blooded who remain active in the Test arena.