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Rugby World Cup
RFU plays down Tindall tabloid splash
Graham Jenkins
September 15, 2011

The Rugby Football Union has defended the actions of the England squad in the wake of a tabloid story centring on captain Mike Tindall.

The 32-year-old was the subject of a front page story in The Sun newspaper in the UK on Thursday that alleged he flirted with a woman in a Queenstown nightclub during a "boozy night off" from his side's World Cup campaign. The paper reports that he was seen kissing and touching the blonde woman with an unnamed source adding that the female pulled Tindall's head into her breasts.

Tindall, who recently married the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips, was reportedly at Queenstown's Altitude bar for the 'Mad Midget Weekender' along with several other squad members including Dan Cole, Steve Thompson, Louis Deacon, Ben Foden, Shontayne Hape, Toby Flood, Tom Croft, Lewis Moody and Nick Easter. Pictures posted on the bar's Facebook site showed Tindall and some of his team-mates looking relaxed on a night out ahead of their second tournament outing against Georgia on Sunday.

English rugby bosses have refused to criticise the actions of the players who were celebrating their opening 13-9 victory over Argentina during a week long stay in the popular South Island resort.

An RFU spokesman said: "Mike and several of the players were enjoying an evening out after he had led the team to a hard-earned victory over Argentina. Like all the lads he plays for England with a massive amount of passion and he was relaxing after a tough match."

England boss Martin Johnson later spoke on the matter saying: "When I started playing rugby at senior level you were dealing with blokes. They treated us like adults and there is no reason to change that now they are professionals and things are far more organised in the game.

"They are there to make sensible decisions - if I can't trust them, there is a simple choice for us to make."

Rich Deane, the manager of Altitude Bar which hosted the midget racing and other games, posted a message on their Facebook page defending the conduct of the England players.

He wrote: "Firstly: There was no dwarf throwing - that's just not cool! Secondly: There was no scandal by any of the English rugby players that we saw! They were great lads, not throwing the midgets, it was all light-hearted good-humoured fun!"

Earlier this week, the England camp were forced to defend their decision to allow players to sample some of the extreme sports on offer in their temporary lakeside home but they opted for a more traditional outing on Thursday to the Wakatipu High School and Arrowtown Primary School where several members of the squad conducted coaching sessions.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.
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