Haskell feared confidentiality breach
November 26, 2011
James Haskell was one of three players accused of sexual harassment by a hotel worker © Getty Images
James Haskell refused to take part in England's World Cup review process because he did not trust the feedback to remain confidential, Press Association Sport understands.
The three reports, compiled by the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Players' Association and the Aviva Premiership clubs, have all been leaked with excerpts published in The Times this week.
Recommendations from all the reports, which contain some damning criticism of England's campaign, are being collated and will be put to the RFU's management board on November 30. But it has emerged Haskell declined to fill in the RPA survey and be interviewed by the players' union because he had no faith in his comments remaining confidential.
RPA chief executive Damian Hopley branded the leaking of the RPA report as the sport's lowest point in this country. "The players have been caught up in the darkest day for rugby union in this country," Hopley said. "The players have been let down and their confidence breached."
Shontayne Hape also refused to take part as he was not comfortable with being asked to rake over the coals and criticise his team-mates. The RPA's report contains allegations that the England management pressured Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley into paying nearly £15,000 in compensation following an allegation of sexual harassment.
Annabel Newton, who worked in the team's Dunedin hotel, had allegedly threatened to sell her story to a newspaper unless she was paid NZ$30,000 (£14,350).
England manager Martin Johnson said on Friday that the players were told to seek external legal advice and that paying up was only one of the options presented to them. The players refused to pay, with one of them quoted in the report as saying they "hadn't done what she claimed we had done", and engaged their own legal representation.
Haskell and Ashton were given a £5,000 suspended fine by the RFU on their return from New Zealand. Hartley was cleared. Haskell has now engaged a defamation specialist and is taking legal action.
The Daily Telegraph reports that Haskell's legal representatives have sent a letter to Newton demanding that she withdraw her allegations and confirm that the incident on Sept 9 was no more than "light-hearted banter between herself and the players". The deadline for the apology reportedly expired on Friday night and Haskell's legal representatives have warned Newton that without it their client "will take the appropriate steps to clear his name and to recover his financial loss."
Haskell is thought to have already run up legal fees of over £80,000 as he bids to clear his name while the fallout from the controversy resulted in a lucrative offer from the Queensland Reds being withdrawn. Haskell has since signed for the Highlanders for the next Super Rugby season although the deal is understood to be less lucrative than that offered by the Reds.
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