Saturday 24 February 2018

Rugby trio disciplined for 'lewd' comments

Alex Lowe in Auckland

THE thunderous countenance of England rugby manager Martin Johnson took on an even blacker hue yesterday as he announced that he had reprimanded three players for their conduct.

A furious Johnson assured the assembled media who had been summoned to hear the latest instalment in the off-the-field adventures of miscreant players, that those involved had been left in "no doubt" about his anger following complaints from a female hotel worker.

The trio who faced the manager's wrath this time out -- James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton -- were all made to formally apologise to Annabel Newton after she was reportedly teased with lewd comments.

According to reports, Ms Newton (23), said the men "treated me with no respect" after she was called into a hotel room to retrieve her walkie-talkie.

Addressing the allegations over player conduct in the team hotel, Johnson said: "I was angry with them. It is just the sort of thing we have talked about.

"What they thought was humour and a light-hearted exchange has clearly not been taken that way by Annabel, the girl involved.

"At the time they apologised when they realised they had stepped over the mark. They had no idea how upset she subsequently became.

"We investigated the facts fully. They have been disciplined. They have been reprimanded for their behaviour and left in no doubt. If you leave yourself open for these headlines to be written it drags us all into it and that is what makes me particularly angry."

The incident reportedly occurred in the days before England moved from Dunedin to Queenstown, where a number of players enjoyed a night out, which also hit the headlines.

Mike Tindall, who married the queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips at the end of July, has been in the spotlight for his actions that night, but his conduct was defended by Johnson yesterday.

According to UK reports yesterday, a spokesman for Tindall said the rugby star apologised "unreservedly" after initially denying claims he had gone to a second bar with the blonde woman whom he was seen hugging and kissing on CCTV.

England boss Johnson said any misleading information Tindall gave as to his whereabouts that night was a simple mistake and "not a cover-up".

"If he was inaccurate in his recollection of the events of the night and his whereabouts, he certainly didn't mean to mislead anyone. It was not an orchestrated cover-up," he added.

Before the squad left for New Zealand, Johnson said he would not ban alcohol or impose curfews but he warned his squad to be mindful of their conduct during the World Cup.

"They are there to make sensible decisions. If I can't trust them, there is a simple choice for us," he said at the time.

Johnson yesterday insisted he still trusted his players.

England beat Scotland 16-12 yesterday and play France in the quarter-finals in Auckland next Saturday.

Irish Independent

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