Howley praises New Zealand welcome despite 'unsavoury incident' at restaurant

Howley praises New Zealand welcome despite 'unsavoury incident' at restaurant

British & Irish Lions coach Rob Howley says the tourists are treating an incident in which team manager John Spencer was the subject of a drunken assault as isolated and disappointing but not representative of the wider experience in New Zealand, writes Simon Lewis in Auckland.

Spencer, 69, had been dining with his wife and family in a central Auckland restaurant on Wednesday night when a fellow diner began verbally abusing his party.

The former England back, a member of the victorious 1971 Lions squad in New Zealand, stood up to ask the man to leave and was then allegedly pushed.

The Lions have not made a complaint or asked for action to be taken and Spencer said: “It was an unsavoury incident, with a drunken man who came over to our table and verbally abused a member of my family.

“I asked him to go away but he continued, so I stood up and he pushed me before his wife came over and took him away.”

The Lions squad and management went out the following night to the Viaduct Harbour area of New Zealand's largest city, a popular venue for bars and restaurants and experienced no trouble and assistant coach Howley said on Friday that was in keeping with the tone of the 2017 tour so far.

“I spoke to John, it's an isolated, disappointing incident,” Howley said.

“We've had a fantastic welcome, the New Zealand public has been fantastic with their welcome.

“Unfortunately in sport there's always a minority, it's not the majority, but the experiences and welcomes we've had have been quite unbelievable.

“The New Zealand public have embraced us. It was only last night we went out to the Viaduct as a squad and management and we had a lot of Kiwis coming up to us.

“Yes there's been banter but that's all part of it. But coming back to John, it's an isolated incident, and it's the minority, not the majority.”

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