Rugby Union: Extra time and penalties in the lying game

Tim Glover says mysteries of Dallaglio affair will run and run solved
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WITHIN MINUTES of Mr Justice Popplewell relieving Lawrence Dallaglio of pounds 25,000 whilst wishing him every success in the World Cup, the nation seemed equally torn between condemnation and compassion.

One caller to Radio 5 Live described Dallaglio as a "pathological liar" and greedy to boot, while the next said he should be restored as England captain and the fine paid by the News of the World. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

Since the newspaper alleged that Dallaglio was a drug taker, a dealer and also played away from home, the affair had dragged on for 13 weeks, yet Mr Justice Popplewell, who has dealt with weightier matters, wrapped it up in about a minute. With Dallaglio sitting in a stuffy room in Twickenham, suitably contrite and suitably attired in his blazer, the impression was less of a case that rocked the rugby establishment, more of a schoolboy getting his knuckles rapped in the headmaster's office. No expulsion, but his pocket money would be confiscated. It simply will not do to have the captain of the First XV smoking behind the bike sheds: loss of captaincy but good luck next Saturday.

Even so, it was a curious case and one in which it was not easy to establish the truth, because both parties admitted to telling a pack of lies. In setting an elaborate trap, two reporters posed as executives of Gillette, offering Dallaglio pounds 1m over four years for the use of his prominent jawline. Plied with champagne, wine and liqueurs, Dallaglio was encouraged into believing that he was dealing not with a twin-blade razor, but with a man and a woman who, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, "worked hard and played hard". Such a philosophy clearly struck a chord.

Nobody worked harder than the Lions in South Africa, or played harder. After a marathon session at a restaurant, Dallaglio was said to have gone on to the Inter-Continental Hotel in Johannesburg for a party in the presidential suite, complete with jacuzzi, where he and two team-mates were supposed to have taken ecstasy and cocaine. At least that's what he told the Gillette executives, nee undercover reporters, but, of course, he was lying. He was telling them what he thought they wanted to hear. Which it was.

However, in his five-hour testimony to the RFU's inquiry team, Dallaglio said he had never been to the Inter-Continental, was unaware of its existence and wouldn't know it if he fell over it. Because of evidence to the contrary, and on legal advice, Roy Manock, the RFU disciplinary officer, sanctioned the charge of drug taking against Dallaglio. Last Monday, the RFU dropped the drugs charge because "new evidence has come to light". That turned out to be an admission by Dallaglio that he had lied to the inquiry.

At the disciplinary hearing on Wednesday, Richard Lissack QC said that on 18 August Dallaglio had changed his story. "He provided the disciplinary officer of the RFU with a true account, acknowledging his presence in the presidential suite on 6-7 July. He did not provide this evidence before in order to protect the personal confidences of others. There is no proof of drug-taking that night."

Lissack, as if to excuse Dallaglio's confusion, pointed out that there were three presidential suites in the Inter- Continental, only one of which had a jacuzzi. The part the jacuzzi played in the proceedings was never touched upon. It is possible, of course, that by the time Dallaglio got to the Inter-Continental he was incapable of remembering his own name, let alone that of the hotel.

Any rugby club on tour would say that such behaviour was par for the course. They would also probably say that if anybody ought to be charged with bringing the game into disrepute it is the RFU, who oversaw a civil war and nearly got England kicked out of the Five Nations.

When Dallaglio starred in sex, lies and videos three months ago, there were visits to more hotels, the Conrad and the Hilton, and more champagne. There was also wining and dining at Langan's - at one point there was a suggestion his drinks were spiked, because he had no recollection of what happened - and subsequently a reference to a wine bar in Battersea. There, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday in June, two employees had seen Dallaglio snorting cocaine while celebrating with his Wasps team- mates.

George Carman QC, Dallaglio's brief, said the "witnesses" signed affidavits in false names before disappearing and the orchestrator of the story was the man who set up the Gillette sting. The Mail on Sunday paid pounds 15,000, the sum Dallaglio was fined. He is suing the Mail on Sunday, for whom he used to write a column, for libel. As an advertiser at Twickenham, the newspaper contributes to the funds of Dallaglio's employer, the RFU.

Lissack summarised: "Law-rence Dallaglio told two near-strangers a false story of highly disreputable conduct about drugs, and embroiled two others wholly untruthfully in en-couraging Gillette to pay him pounds 1m. His conduct brought his name and the game he undoubtedly loves into grave disrepute."

Although Dallaglio pleaded guilty, Carman argued that his client had suffered enough. "The damaged caused came from the News of the World, not Lawrence Dallaglio. He didn't make anything public. He was speaking in private and in confidence. In many ways he was the victim."

In the end, it wasn't even a close shave. A compromise was duly reached - a pounds 15,000 fine and pounds 10,000 towards costs. Dallaglio was given three months to pay, by which time he could have received a pounds 100,000 bonus, the incentive should England win the World Cup.

Having picked up the ball and run with it, Dallaglio was caught lying on the wrong side of a scam, and that's a penalty not a red card. The England coach Clive Woodward, his staunchest ally, had already recalled him against the US last week. After England had scored 106 points, Dallaglio was drug-tested and came up smelling of roses.