World Cup winning centre Mike Tindall effectively won his appeal against a £25 000 fine and being dropped from the England Elite player squad on Monday when the fine was reduced to £15 000 and he was reinstated into the squad.
The decision by acting English Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive Martyn Thomas to ease the punishment for the 33-year-old 2003 World Cup winner for his antics during a night out in the New Zealand resort town of Queenstown during the World Cup will be another blow to the already damaged image of RFU’s elite rugby director Rob Andrew.
Andrew had led the original hearing and the punishment meted out to Tindall had been described as “extraordinary” and “unprecedented” by the Rugby Players’ Association and they had backed the Gloucester back in his appeal.
Thomas — who will step down on December 16 after the RFU management board voted not to renew his contract earlier this month — said that Andrew had failed to take into account mitigating factors on the 75-times capped Tindall’s behalf.
“Mike did not intentionally mislead the RFU team management when he stated that he could not remember where he was on the night of September 11, and that he was relying on other people’s versions of events which were relayed to him,” said Thomas.
“There was no evidence of any suggestion of sexual impropriety of any nature with the woman in question, and we accept the fact that she is a family friend who he has known for a long time … Mike expressed deep regret during the appeal meeting about his behaviour, and that he had apologised to [former England manager] Martin Johnson and the team for the events which unfolded as a consequence … there was no evidence that Mike had been involved in any incidences in the past which could contribute as aggravating factors.”
The RFU, which has been plunged into turmoil after a disappointing World Cup on and off the pitch and the resignation of manager Martin Johnson, issued a terse statement.
“Mike Tindall’s fine for breaches of the England elite player squad agreement during the 2011 Rugby World Cup has been reduced from £25 000 to £15 000 and he has been reinstated into the England Elite Player Squad.”
Tindall’s conduct caught on camera caused uproar when it first came to light.
Leaked security footage showed Tindall, recently married to Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, being kissed on the head by a woman.
Tindall was among a group of players who, having been given the night off by the England management, first went drinking at the Pub on the Wharf and then moved on to the nearby Altitude Bar.
He later issued an apology for misleading the England management over his movements that night, having initially claimed he did not go on to another bar.
The decision could well place further pressure on former England fly-half Andrew to reconsider his position — who admitted he should have given more support to Johnson but at the same time felt it wasn’t for him to join the World Cup winning captain in falling on his sword. — AFP