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Rugby World Cup 2011
RPA leaps to defence of players
ESPNscrum Staff
October 20, 2011

Rugby Players Association (RPA) chief executive Damian Hopley claims that there was a significant amount of misinformation fed to the media in relation to the off-field controversies which marred England's Rugby World Cup campaign.

Martin Johnson's men were slated for their behaviour in New Zealand. Lowlights included Mike Tindall, the husband of Zara Phillips, the Queen's granddaughter, being caught on CCTV with a mystery blonde on a night out in Queenstown with team-mates, Manu Tuilagi being detained by police after jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour and Chris Ashton, Dylan Hartley and James Haskell being forced to apologise to a female hotel employee for lewd comments.

However, Hopley insists that some of the players involved in the scandals have been unfairly portrayed by the media.

"With regard to the off-field incidents that have been widely reported, there has been significant misinformation fed into the press that has compromised some of the players, and this is considerably harmful in undermining the players' positions," he said.

"Indeed the very public outpouring of disapproval heaped on these players over the past month is disproportionate to the actual events that happened."

Consequently, the players will have the full backing of the RPA when the Professional Game Board (PGB) begins its review into England's tournament.

"The RPA are here to support the players," he said. "That doesn't mean we condone any inappropriate behaviour but it means we listen to the players first, we work out what was wrong and what was embellished.

"If any player has made a mistake we trust them to hold their hand up and accept full responsibility for their actions. It's imperative that all stakeholders work together to make sure mistakes aren't repeated.

"Our fundamental concern is that we don't make scapegoats of the players or hang individuals out to dry, especially in the current clamour for bloodletting across the game.

"This PGB review is all about identifying collective responsibility and rebuilding trust and confidence in our players, the England team and the RFU. Everyone must be accountable for their actions."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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