Hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons
July 9, 2009
Toulouse's Trevor Brennan wades in to the crowd during a Heineken Cup clash in 2007 © Getty Images
Rugby, as we are frequently told, is a game for gentlemen. Or is it? The game is littered with players who have found the bright lights too tempting or have let short fuses get the better of them.
After several high profile cases in recent months we take a look back at some of rugby's worst offenders in our latest Scrum Seven.
Trevor Brennan - Toulouse & Ireland
Former Ireland flanker Trevor Brennan was enjoying life as a Toulouse player, running a bar in the city and playing for one of the biggest clubs in Europe. All that would change when during a 2007 Heineken Cup pool match he would react to criticism of his bar, De Danu, by climbing in to the stands and raining blows down on Ulster supporter Patrick Bamford.
Brennan alleged that Bamford had shouted abuse about his mother, later dismissed by authorities, and was banned from playing for life. His sentence was reduced on appeal to five years, while he was ordered to pay Bamford damages.
Craig Gower - Bayonne & Italy
Former Kangaroos rugby league halfback Gower has forged a second career in union after switching codes to join Top 14 side Bayonne, winning international recognition for Italy. His chequered past in Australia almost cost him a shot at Test level in union, with Italy coach Nick Mallett reluctant to pick him due to the lengthy 'controversy' section on his Wikipedia page.
The page goes on to list several of Gower's alcohol related misdemeanours, culminating with the player being stripped of the Penrith captaincy following an alleged grope of fellow league star Wayne Pierce's teenage daughter in 2006. The following year he reportedly sparked a brawl by biting a man in a bar, before heading north for recognition with the Azzurri.
A Rugby Football Union disicplinary investigation found internationals Mike Brown and Topsy Ojo guilty of misconduct on their tour of New Zealand in 2008 and fined them £1,000 and £500 respectively.
The disciplinary investigation, that cleared their team mates David Strettle and Danny Care, reprimanded them for staying up all night and warned them against putting themselves in "any compromising situations."
All four had been named by British media as being at the centre of sexual misconduct allegations involving an 18-year-old woman in Auckland. The woman made no formal complaint to New Zealand police, and the RFU found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing but the players' reputations were tarnished and neither have played for England since.
Lote Tuqiri - Waratahs & Australia
Dual-code international Tuqiri was controversially handed his marching orders by the Australian Rugby Union in June 2009 - his sacking announced the day before coach Robbie Deans announced his squad for the Tri-Nations.
Tuqiri, who won 67 caps and scored a try in the 2003 World Cup final, was released with no reason given pending legal action on his part. The player had a history of near misses with the Wallaby authorities, and was understood to be on a final warning when he was reportedly involved in a breach of team protocol at their hotel during a Test series against Italy and France. In 2007 he was stood down for two Tests by ARU boss John O'Neill following a different alcohol related breach of team rules.
David Bishop - Pontypool & Wales
After representing Wales at U18 level, scrum-half David Bishop's promising rugby career was put on hold following an altercation in Cardiff city centre - for which he received a three-year prison sentence.
Bishop returned to the game after his release, taking up an offer from Eddie Butler to play at Pontypool. Bishop was rewarded with a solitary Wales cap after making a stunning recovery from a broken neck, filling in while great scrum-half Terry Holmes was suffering from an injury.
He again found himself in trouble with the authorities however, breaking Chris Jarman's jaw while playing against Pontypool's Gwent rivals Newbridge. A private prosecution from Jarman saw Bishop handed a suspended jail sentence and an 11 month playing ban. When he wasn't courting controversy, Bishop was one of the most naturally talented players of his generation.
Matt Henjak - Western Force & Australia
Western Force scrum-half Matt Henjak saw his contract with the Australian Rugby Union terminated after he broke team-mate Haig Sare's jaw during an altercation at their team hotel.
Henjak and Sare had been due to leave for South Africa with the Force ahead of the 2008 Super 14 season before their set-to, with Henjak subsequently being shopped around Australia's rugby league clubs before settling on a contract with French Top 14 side Toulon. Henjak joined the Force from Canberra based outfit Brumbies, and won four international caps for the Wallabies between 2004 and 2005. In 2005 he was sent home from a tour of South Africa after an incident in a Cape Town nightclub.
Muka Papali'i - Samoa
Samoan hooker Muka Papali'i may be the most unfortunate player on this list. In 1955 he turned out for Samoa against their fierce rivals Fiji in the second Test match at Apia. Both unions had a fierce desire to build the sport in the Pacific and were keen to promote a wholesome image.
Papali'i reacted to a punch from an opponent with one of his own and was promptly charged with bringing the game in to disrepute. He was banned for life, which let's face it, is just a tad harsh.
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