Twenty-four hours after Gavin Henson landed himself a week's suspension from French side Toulon, where officials are investigating claims he badmouthed fellow players before fighting with others during a post-match night on the sauce, professional club rugby took another tawdry turn for the worse when Wasps banned the England prop Tim Payne and Wales back-row forward Andy Powell, following a dust-up in a west London pub on Monday night.
Wasps, twice holders of the European title, are conducting an internal investigation and flatly refused to disclose details of the alleged incident.
However, several sources indicated the players had been involved in an altercation with football supporters in a Shepherd's Bush hostelry close to Loftus Road, where Queen's Park Rangers and Derby County were meeting in a televised game. Powell suffered head injuries, and police were called. The Metropolitan Police's violent crime unit is investigating the incident.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "Officers were called at 22.30 to reports of an altercation at the Walkabout public house on Shepherd's Bush Green, W12. An incident is being investigated by officers from the violent crime unit at Hammersmith and Fulham police. No one has yet been arrested and our enquiries are ongoing."
Medical student Hal Munton, 20, was in the Walkabout on Monday and last night told the Press Association that, although he did not see how the incident involving Powell began, he provided his T-shirt to compress a cut on Powell's head after witnessing part of the incident.
Mr Munton posted a picture of a man he says is Powell on Twitter, lying face down on the floor being tended to by police. "They battered him. It was four or five against one. There were chairs and glass and fists," said Mr Munton, who was in the pub having been to the QPR-Derby game. "Then they scarpered. It was crazy. I haven't seen a fight like it. Once he was on the floor he didn't have a hope in hell. He had a big cut on the top of his head. When he was on the ground they were kicking him. One of them threw a pint glass down at him before they left."
Mr Munton said the police had given him back his T-shirt, which he threw away because it was covered in blood.
It may well be that we have seen the last of both players for the season. It is highly unlikely that Wasps will complete their inquiry in time for either man to face Bath at Twickenham on Saturday, after which the Londoners will have only one game left to them – at Exeter on 7 May.
Even if Payne and Powell are absolved of blame, there would not be much point exposing them to the derision of a noisy band of West Country supporters, just for the sake of it.
Powell is no stranger to disciplinary trouble, having been thrown out of the Wales squad for driving a golf buggy down the M4 at the dead of night, shortly after participating in a Six Nations victory over Scotland in Cardiff.
He is back in the international mix now and is a strong candidate for a place in the squad for this autumn's World Cup in New Zealand. Payne is unlikely to make the England cut for that tournament, having fallen behind the bright young London Irish prop Alex Corbisiero in the pecking order.
Meanwhile, the England centre Shontayne Hape has played his last game for Bath.
The former rugby league international is moving to London Irish at the end of the season and has decided to have minor surgery on a knee problem now to try to give himself a clear run at World Cup preparation.
Hape, who switched codes when he joined Bath from Bradford Bulls, said: "I have had a great time at Bath, and I am so thankful for the help everyone here has given me in making the transition to union and in fulfilling my international ambitions.
"It has been a very enjoyable three years, and while I am excited about the new challenges awaiting me, I will be sad to leave the guys here."Reuse content