Mike Tindall said he had been made a “scapegoat” for England’s shambolic World Cup campaign as he reacted to the news he’d been reinstated to the squad and had a fine reduced on appeal.
Tindall was fined £25 000 and kicked out of England’s elite player squad by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) elite rugby director Rob Andrew as a result of his drunken antics during a night out in the New Zealand resort town of Queenstown.
But an appeal heard on Monday by acting RFU chief executive Martyn Thomas — who quit his post on Tuesday — saw the fine reduced to £15 000 and restored 2003 World Cup winner Tindall to the squad.
Leaked security footage showed Tindall, recently married to Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter Zara Phillips, being kissed on the head by a woman in a Queenstown bar.
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.
“While I accept the decision made by the disciplinary appeal panel last [Monday] night I still maintain that the level of fine is not in line with other RFU disciplinary cases,” said 33-year-old Gloucester centre Tindall in a statement issued on Tuesday by the Rugby Players’ Association.
“I absolutely accept my share of responsibility for what happened in Queenstown and that I drank too much that night,” added Tindall.
“It unfortunately created a level of media interest which was an unwanted distraction for myself, my teammates, Martin Johnson and his staff … I can again only apologise unreservedly for this.”
Tindall then turned his fire on the RFU by saying: “I am deeply disappointed by the way the RFU has chosen to handle the situation and I have felt throughout the disciplinary process that my case was made unnecessarily political and public by the RFU and that I ended up being made a scapegoat … it had been suggested that I intentionally misled people in relation to the events in Queenstown and I am pleased following this appeal process that it has been made clear that I did not do so … I feel somewhat vindicated by the decision to reinstate me back into the Elite Player Squad,” said the 75-time capped midfielder.
“It is the ultimate honour to play for your country and I am proud and privileged to have done this for over 11 years. I have always put my heart and soul into playing for England … however for now, my immediate focus is playing for Gloucester on Friday and I would like to thank the great team of people around me as well as the fans who have been hugely supportive.”
Earlier this month Johnson, Tindall’s captain when England won the World Cup eight years ago, resigned as England manager.
On the field, England failed to reach their minimum goal of a semifinal spot at the recent World Cup in New Zealand, losing to a France team that itself only scraped through to the knockout stages in the quarterfinals.
Last week a series of leaked reports into England’s World Cup performance painted a portrait of money-obsessed players led by a management lacking the necessary rugby skills and unable to impose meaningful discipline. — AFP