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Rugby World Cup 2011
Prem chiefs hit out at England and RFU
ESPNscrum Staff
October 14, 2011

Premiership Rugby chairman Quentin Smith has revealed that he and chief executive Mark McCafferty felt compelled to apologise to the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) for England's behaviour on and off the field during the Rugby World Cup.

England bowed out of the tournament last weekend on the back of a dismal defeat by France and their exit was not exactly mourned by the host nation.

Indeed, the team's time in New Zealand was blighted by a succession of unsavoury incidents, including a tabloid scandal involving Mike Tindall after a night out in Queenstown, inappropriate behaviour by Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell towards a female hotel employee and the police detention of Manu Tuilagi after he jumped off a ferry into Auckland Harbour.

England also let themselves down on the field, with coaches Dave Alred and Paul Stridgeon hit with one-game bans for illegally switching balls during England's win over Romania in the pool stages.

Consequently, Smith and McCafferty, who are still in New Zealand, felt to need to apologise to their hosts on behalf of the Rugby Football Union (RFU). "They have performed badly on and off the field as a representative body in the eyes of the International Rugby Board (IRB) and in the eyes of the host nation," he said. "Mark and I found the opportunity to apologise to the All Blacks, to the management, the chairman and chief executive in the absence of any contrition.

"It is not our team, we are here as representatives of the Premiership and all the players but we felt embarrassed there hadn't been an acknowledgement that the event had been tarnished by bad behaviour.

"They thanked us. It was not a big statement. It doesn't have to be very much but it has to demonstrate acknowledgement of what has gone on - not the 'we'll sort it out when we get home' and 'hey, rugby players go out for a drink'."

McCafferty, meanwhile, revealed that he is furious with the RFU's decision to entrust Fran Cotton with the responsibility of reviewing England's World Cup campaign, claiming that the move is a breach of the post-tournament review protocol previously agreed with the Professional Game Board (PGB).

"Our concern is that this is very symptomatic of the union at the moment. It is a union in some crisis," he said. "It is indicative I think of a certain degree of panic almost. You have got to have faith and confidence in the process. The PGB is the only body where the players, the clubs and England come together.

"We have been working hard behind the scenes to make that a diligent and efficient body that is decisive and discreet in the way it operates. When we have an agreed process and reached a specific agreement then we have to comment because we have a union at the moment that is not managing that situation appropriately.

"It is about time the Rugby Football Union acknowledged that the professional game has to be managed by professionals. End of story."

Cotton has already publicly criticised England team manager Martin Johnson and his players for the way their performances in New Zealand, prompting McCafferty to question his ability to carry out a fair and balanced review.

"We have yet another review with people who are already commenting heavily in the press disclosing their hand on certain issues so how can that possibly be independent, when people are expressing their conclusions?" he said.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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