Hopley angry as RFU plays dumb over the World Cup


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The Independent Online

It is laughably ironic that the Rugby Football Union, unable to keep even the most sensitive documents under wraps during the gruesome aftermath of last year's failed World Cup campaign, should now be refusing to divulge the details of two separate investigations into a leak that left the English in the sporting sewer. Not everyone is laughing, though. The players' union, infuriated by the governing body's newly discovered gift for secrecy will use all means at its disposal to push for disclosure.

"We need to know what went on," said Damian Hopley, chief executive of the Rugby Players' Association, yesterday. "To let it fade into the background... we don't think that's acceptable. It was a challenging time after the World Cup, a torrid time. To come away from the investigations with nothing is incredibly frustrating."

Following the England party's return from New Zealand in October, both the RPA and the governing body held reviews into the on-field disappointments and off-field excesses that brought the national team to its lowest ebb. When Hopley and his colleagues canvassed squad members, guaranteeing that their responses would not be made public, they were presented with evidence of weak management, sub-standard coaching and deeply questionable behaviour by a number of senior players. This evidence was promptly leaked to the press.

Inquiries were launched within days: the first conducted by Monitor Quest, a London-based security and risk management company; the second by Judge Jeff Blackett, the RFU's chief disciplinary officer. Hopley said that of the 25 individuals who had seen the review material, from Twickenham secretarial staff to figures at the very top of the union's hierarchy, only one had refused to be interviewed by investigators. Might this have been the culprit? Was he still playing an active role at Twickenham? Hopley would go no further, for fear of legal repercussions.

He did, however, have choice words to say about the lack of transparency. "Our concern is that the investigations have simply gone away," he said. "I admit that the original review process was flawed, in that there was no right of reply for the coaches, but the leak caused so much damage to trust and integrity, that those responsible should have been rounded on. At the RPA, we're accountable to every one of our 620-odd members. If I did something wrong, I know that I'd be marched out of the office."