Johnson denies RFU put pressure on English trio
Published 26/11/2011 | 05:00
Martin Johnson has refuted allegations that the Rugby Football Union pressured three players into paying nearly £15,000 in compensation money to a hotel worker.
James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were accused of alleged verbal sexual harassment following an incident in the England team's Dunedin hotel.
The alleged victim, Annabel Newton, had reportedly threatened to sell her story to a newspaper unless she was paid NZ$30,000 (£14,350).
According to a leaked World Cup report, one of the players said that "paying the money seemed to be the advice" and that "another option wasn't really given" by the RFU. England's travelling QC Richard Smith is accused by the anonymous player of being more "interested in defending the RFU's reputation than ours".
The three players refused to pay, insisting they "hadn't done what she claimed we had done" and engaged their own legal representation.
But Johnson insisted yesterday the RFU did not try and lead the players into paying up, explaining it was merely one of the available options.
"They were clearly given the options and the number one thing they were told they must do was to get their own independent legal advice," Johnson said. "(We said paying the compensation money) was an option. She asked for compensation and one option you could do was to do that. It was not an easy time for anyone."