Skipper Mike Tindall fined and dropped by England
MIKE Tindall has been removed from England's elite player squad and fined £25,000 (€29,000) following events in New Zealand during the recent World Cup campaign.
The Rugby Football Union has also announced £5,000 (€5,800) suspended fines for wing Chris Ashton and back-row forward James Haskell and warned them about their future conduct.
Hooker Dylan Hartley, though, has been cleared.
England crashed out of the tournament against France in the quarter-finals after a tournament dominated by their off-field issues.
Today's developments would appear to spell the end of Tindall's England career.
The 33-year-old Yorkshireman has won more than 70 caps, captained his country and featured in the 2003 World Cup-winning squad. Earlier this year, he married the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips.
Tindall was pictured with a woman at a bar in Queenstown where a dwarf throwing competition was taking place, and then later admitted misleading England management about events during the evening.
England manager Martin Johnson then had to reprimand three players - Haskell, Ashton and Hartley - later in the trip for making inappropriate comments to a female hotel worker in Dunedin. The trio were forced to formally apologise.
The players appeared before the RFU's professional rugby director Rob Andrew and legal and governance director Karena Vleck.
In a statement, the RFU said: "The Rugby Football Union has taken the following disciplinary action regarding breaches of the England elite player squad agreement during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
"Mike Tindall has been removed from the England elite player squad with immediate effect and fined £25,000 for his conduct around the events that took place in Queenstown on the night of Sunday, September 11, 2011.
"Chris Ashton has been fined £5,000 (fine suspended until December 31, 2012), for his part in the events in Dunedin on Friday, September 9, 2011 and warned as to his future conduct.
"James Haskell has been fined £5,000 (fine suspended until December 31, 2012), for his part in the events in Dunedin on Friday, September 9, 2011 and warned as to his future conduct.
"Dylan Hartley has been cleared of being involved in the exchange of inappropriate language which led to allegations of wrongdoing against himself, Chris Ashton and James Haskell, in Dunedin on Friday, September 9, 2011."
Andrew said Tindall's actions had "reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player".
There were those who felt Johnson should have made an example of the Gloucester player and sent him home early from New Zealand.
Andrew said: "We have considered all the evidence carefully and interviewed the players at length.
"These actions have not been taken lightly, but we believe that in all these cases the sanctions are commensurate with the level of seriousness of what occurred.
"Mike Tindall's actions reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player and amounted to a very serious breach of the EPS (elite player squad) code of conduct.
"While we acknowledge his previous good character, it needs to be made clear that what he did will not be tolerated.
"Regarding the events in Dunedin, it should be stressed that the allegations of very serious wrong-doing made against Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell by Annabel Newton, a member of staff at the team hotel, were entirely false.
"We do not believe the players had any intention to sexually harass or intimidate Ms Newton.
"However, the incident is precisely the kind of dangerous, compromising situation the players were warned about prior to departure for New Zealand and that they were specifically told to avoid in the EPS code of conduct.
"While we found that Dylan Hartley played no part in the ill-considered exchange with Annabel Newton, Chris Ashton and James Haskell's behaviour on September 9 did breach the EPS code of conduct and they have each been given suspended fines of £5,000.
"If they commit any further breaches of the code before December 31, 2012 the fines will become due.
"Finally, these episodes and the subsequent disciplinary action should stand as a strong reminder that the highest standards of personal conduct are expected from any England player on and off the field."
The players have a right of appeal within three working days from today.