Rugby union to probe England’s embarrassing World Cup

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) threatened England’s players with international suspension after launching an investigation on Thursday into all allegations of misconduct off the field during the team’s disappointing World Cup campaign.

England’s time in New Zealand was mired in controversy following a string of high-profile incidents away from the pitch, culminating in centre Manu Tuilagi being detained by police after jumping off a ferry into Auckland harbour in the wake of a limp quarterfinal defeat to France on Saturday.

England’s campaign was generally a public relations disaster with Mike Tindall caught on CCTV footage on a night out with an ex-girlfriend weeks after marrying Zara Phillips, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, while three players were reprimanded for making sexist comments to a hotel worker.

There were also allegations of on-field cheating by swapping balls for goalkicks.

Karena Vleck, head of RFU’s legal department, will lead the investigation, with acting chief executive Martyn Thomas saying that players found to have breached the RFU elite player agreement or its code of conduct could be fined, warned or handed an international ban.

“The off-field performances have been wholly unacceptable,” Thomas 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.”

England’s performances were below par, too.

After struggling to pool victories over Argentina and Scotland, Martin Johnson’s team lost 19-12 to the French in the quarterfinals.

It was England’s worst World Cup campaign since 1999 — leading to question marks about the future of Johnson, whose contract expires in December. — Sapa-AP

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