Rugby World Cup: RFU to investigate player conduct

England rugby union coach Martin Johnson Controversy has dogged England's World Cup campaign in New Zealand

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The off-field antics of some of England's Rugby World Cup players are to be investigated by the sport's governing body over the next two weeks.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) will examine claims of player misconduct during their campaign in New Zealand.

It will focus on events during a night out drinking in Queenstown, a reported incident with a female member of staff in a hotel and a trip on a ferry.

Those found to have breached their code of conduct will be fined or suspended.

The RFU's acting chief executive, Martyn Thomas, said the investigation would be carried out by Karena Vleck, the head of its legal department.

'Fully prepped'

"Under the terms of the elite player squad agreement they can be fined in relation to their match fees, they can be fined or cautioned in relation to breaches of the player code of conduct," Mr Thomas said.

"It is open to discussions... that they would not be available to England going forward as a fairly significant sanction."

England's World Cup campaign was dogged by controversy before and after their defeat by France in the quarter-finals.

Start Quote

The off-field performances have been wholly unacceptable”

End Quote Martyn Thomas RFU acting chief executive

During a night out in Queenstown, some players ended up in a backpackers' bar which was staging a dwarf-racing competition.

England captain Mike Tindall was captured on CCTV footage in the Altitude Bar, reportedly in conversation with an old flame.

England manager Martin Johnson had given players permission to go out, but Tindall later apologised for mistakenly misleading the England management by initially claiming he did not go on to another bar.

Johnson also confirmed that he had reprimanded James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton for a reported incident with a female worker in their Dunedin hotel.

And Manu Tuilagi was fined £3,000 by the RFU for jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour, which attracted the attention of the police.

Mr Thomas said the England manager had been "let down by a number of the players".

"The off-field performances have been wholly unacceptable," he said.

"The players were extensively counselled and coached on the implications of this tour and the conduct that was required of them was made clear to them.

"I don't believe any individual can put their hand up and say we didn't know what was going to happen. They were fully prepped."

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