Zara tackles tabloids over media scrum caused by husband's boozy off-side play
ZARA Phillips is resolutely standing by her man.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth's grand-daughter -- who married England rugby captain Mike Tindall in July -- hit out at tabloid reports that alleged he groped a woman in a bar in New Zealand as he celebrated beating Argentina in their opening World Cup fixture.
Speaking in Cork yesterday, where she is taking part in a top equestrian event, Zara said: "It really is quite sad that with the World Cup going on, that is all they have to write about."
Looking relaxed and wearing her Team GB blazer, she said she had already spoken to her husband -- and would fly to New Zealand as planned with other players' wives to cheer the team on for their second match.
"Of course I spoke to him. I speak to him every day," she said.
The British royal said she was saddened and disappointed that despite the Rugby World Cup ranking as one of the world's premier sporting events, tabloid coverage had focused on sensational stories like this.
"It ranks as one of the best tournaments and that is all the news they (tabloids) can get out of it," she said.
Sources close to the couple insisted that the woman seen on CCTV kissing and hugging Tindall was an "old friend" of the England rugby captain and his royal bride.
The images of Tindall in the company of the blonde woman were posted online a day after it emerged that the sportsman enjoyed a night of drinking in the Altitude bar in Queenstown after the match.
At one point, the footage shows the player wrapping his arm around the woman.
The pair continued to chat close to the exit before Tindall bowed his head and she grabbed it with both hands, kissing his crown.
Zara, daughter of Britain's Princess Anne, was speaking as she took part in the Johnson & Perrot International Horse Trials at Ballindenisk in Cork.
She ranks as one of Britain's top equestrian stars and is competing for the second time in the Cork event.
She declined to comment further on the controversy -- but stressed that she loved competing in Ireland.
"It is wonderful here," she said.
Tindall had joined other England squad members on Sunday night at the bar, which was hosting a 'Mad Midget Weekender'.
The players were given the evening off after Tindall captained England to an unconvincing 13-9 victory over Argentina in their opening game of the tournament in New Zealand.
The CCTV footage has been posted on various websites in New Zealand and is interspersed with pieces-to-camera by the uploader, who described himself as a bouncer.
England coach Martin Johnson defended the right of his players to "let off a bit of steam" during a major tournament.
Johnson said before the team left for New Zealand that he would not be imposing drinking bans on the squad, and stuck by that decision yesterday.
He said: "You have got to relieve the pressure and let off steam at the right time. It was a good idea.
"I had no problem with them doing that. We all know when you have a rugby team that part of it is the bonding off the field."