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Saturday, November 12, 2011

After World Cup shame, a £25,000 fine and humiliation for Tindall (and Zara's face says it all)

-Tindall's dropping from the squad spells the end of his international career
-'He's been made a scapegoat' says father of Gloucester star
-Star will appeal against the decision
-Flanker James Haskell and fullback Chris Ashton handed £5,000 fines
-Hooker Dylan Hartley is cleared of wrongdoing over incident at team's hotel
-Rugby director Rob Andrew said there had been a 'very serious breach’ of the players' code of conduct

By Rebecca English, Royal Correspondent

On the way out: Former England Rugby captain Mike Tindall leaves his Cheltenham home with wife Zara Phillips today

Mike Tindall’s England rugby career is effectively over after he was dropped from the national team for his off- field antics during a disastrous World Cup campaign.

The husband of the Queen’s grand-daughter was also fined £25,000 for his role in the team’s infamous night out in New Zealand on September 11.

Smarting over their poor performance in the opening match, the players downed cut-price shots at a ‘dwarf-tossing’ competition while the newly married Tindall drunkenly cavorted with a glamorous former girlfriend.

Footage of Tindall kissing his ex Jessica Palmer was released by a doorman at Altitude bar

That raucous night and the recriminations that followed overshadowed the competition and set the tone for England’s appallingly poor show.

While the former England captain remained silent yesterday, his father insisted he had been made a ‘scapegoat’ because of his connection to the Royal Family.

Tindall, who married world champion eventer Zara Phillips in July, had heaped embarrassment on his bride after he was seen embracing the woman later revealed as his ex-girlfriend Jessica Palmer.

All smiles: Zara Phillips pictured today at Cheltenham races where she did a raffle draw for the Countryside Alliance

And while Zara stood by her new husband and flew half way round the world to support him, the damage was done. Yesterday, she was once again by Tindall’s side as they left their £800,000 home in Cheltenham, stony-faced and silent.

At his home in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Tindall’s father Phil was visibly upset at the rugby authority’s verdict on his son. He insisted the scandal had only been whipped up because of Tindall’s marriage to Zara and said he had the support of his squad.

Tindall's antics with teammates Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton were widely criticised within the sport

Mike Tindall has been sacked from the England team after his drunken antics in New Zealand while his wife was back home in the UK

‘Mike is being used as a scapegoat for the poor performance of the team,’ Mr Tindall said. ‘It seems unfair. I feel there is only this scandal because of who Mike is linked to.

‘It happened the day after a game, they didn’t have another game for a week. Mike was always fit for the matches.’

His antics in New Zealand while the England rugby team were playing in the World Cup received widespread criticism

But the Rugby Football Union statement was uncompromising, accusing Tindall of breaching the England Elite Player Squad Agreement.

The RFU’s professional rugby director Rob Andrew was even more scathing.

‘Mike Tindall’s actions reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player,’ he said.

‘Whilst we acknowledge his previous good character it needs to be made clear that what he did will not be tolerated.’

He added that today’s ruling should stand as a reminder to others that the highest standards of personal conduct are expected from any England player on and off the field’.

At a press conference after the debacle came to the world’s attention, Tindall looked decidedly sheepish despite claiming the week after had ‘not really’ been a difficult time for him.

Once he had been reunited in Dunedin with Zara Phillips, however, he quickly fell into line.

Tindall - who has been named in the Cloucester team for Sunday's Heineken Cup away clash against Toulouse - was among a group of players who headed for the Altitude bar in Queenstown, despite only having scraped a 13-9 win over unfancied Argentina the previous day.

The nightspot, which was hosting a decidedly politically incorrect ‘Mad Midget Weekender’, was packed with rugby fans who flocked to party with the team.

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.

England manager Martin Johnson 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.

A second screen grab shows him being kissed on the head by Miss Plamer at the Queenstown bar

Flying in the face of the outrage meted out to Tindall over his kiss at the Altitude bar, Manu Tiulagi re-enacted the kiss as the team - beaten by France - checked in for their flight home

‘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 ho me 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.'

He continued: '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.

Flanker James Haskell and fullback Chris Ashton were also given £5,000 suspended fines. Last night the Rugby Players’ Association said: ‘Mike will be appealing this unprecedented fine.’

James Haskell, who was criticised for going bungee jump during the tournament, has been handed a suspended fine for his part in a drunken incident involving a hotel maid

source: dailymail


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