ENGLAND COACH MARTIN Johnson has insisted that players need to “relieve the pressure” of playing in big games after pictures and video footage emerged of several stars drinking on a night out in Queenstown.
Johnson said he would not ban his players from drinking alcohol while at the World Cup before the squad ever left for New Zealand and confirmed that his management group knew the players in question had plans last Sunday evening.
“It was guys out having a few drinks, as other teams have done in the same town during the World Cup. There is no difference – it is just the way it has been reported: ‘rugby player drinks beer, shocker’,” he insisted, speaking to reporters.
“It was a good idea. In the pressure of (a) World Cup you have got to find the opportunity to do things like that, enjoy yourself and let off a bit of steam. I had no problem with them doing that. I don’t (feel my trust has been betrayed).”
What has really set tongues wagging, however, is footage of centre Mike Tindall, who married the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips in July, chatting to, putting his arm around and later leaving the venue with a woman.
On his former team-mate’s situation, Johnson said: “No one likes to be on the front page of the papers but Mike knows his responsibilities. I don’t have to speak about (him), about where he is. He fully understands that.”
The England coach said that no disciplinary action will be taken and his playing group has since held a meeting over the fall out. He added:
“The manager of the bar says the England players’ behaviour was perfectly acceptable all through the evening. There is no implication from anyone there that we have heard that there has been any bad behaviour.”
Tindall will not be in action against Georgia this weekend – Johnson having made nine changes to the team that eventually overcame Argentina in England’s open Pool game. However, Chris Ashton, Toby Flood and Dylan Hartley – all pictured on the night out – will start the fixture.