The accusations were revealed in one of several confidential reviews conducted into England’s shambolic World Cup campaign, when a number of players were disciplined for bad behaviour during the tournament.
Those reviews, conducted separately by RFU Elite Director of Rugby Rob Andrew, the Players’ Union and the professional clubs were all leaked to a British newspaper and published yesterday, revealing damning findings concerning players and team management alike. Chief among the lowlights was Mike Tindall’s now infamous night out in a Queenstown bar, when security camera footage stolen by a bouncer and sold to a newspaper, showed the newly married husband of the Queen’s granddaughter with his head in another woman’s cleavage and other players enjoying drunken revelry with dwarves.
Yet an unnamed England player suggested Ireland had committed worse acts in the very same bar.
“It was the senior guys pushing the boundaries, treating it like an old-school tour. It has to be treated more seriously,” the anonymous player said. “If it’s the senior players leading drinking games or drinking until they can’t remember anything, what example are the younger players set?”
The player continued: “Ireland had been in there (the Altitude Bar in Queenstown) and were much worse, but I think they might have taken the press with them.”
That prompted a swift response from the IRFU, with a statement last night reading: “The Ireland team did enjoy a sanctioned night out in Queenstown and were given permission to socialise in the town. It was made public at the time and as adults they enjoyed themselves without any incident.”
Privately, officials are seething that Declan Kidney’s squad has been dragged into the debate, particularly on the tenuous assumption of an anonymous English player who arrived in Queenstown some 10 days after Ireland had departed.
Irish flanker Stephen Ferris was photographed with his t-shirt off during a night out and a picture appeared in an Irish tabloid on the morning of the Ireland-Australia game but it was not viewed as a breach of discipline by the IRFU.
Even if the England players’ comments were made in confidence, the IRFU is furious to have had its players cited in dispatches when they are satisfied their squad members acted responsibly. As for the Irish media being a part of the cited night out and somehow implicit in a cover up, the IRFU had no official comment and while this reporter did not come into contact with the players that evening, off-duty journalists were certainly out but never as part of the players’ party.