Martin Johnson regrets 'ball-gate' scandal

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Martin Johnson has revealed his regret over the ball-switch scandal which has led to two senior members of the England management team being banned from tomorrow's Scotland clash.

Jonny Wilkinson's mentor Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon were found to have illegally switched balls during England's 67-3 victory over Romania.



Asked whether the situation had been an embarrassment for England, Johnson said: "Paul and David did what they did in the heat and confusion of a Test.



"We should have asked the referee (if they could switch balls), we didn't. They asked us to stop, we did.



"I don't suspend guys lightly. We regret what we did and it was wrong.



"In the heat of a World Cup match these guys have made a mistake and they have paid for it."



The RFU were forced to act on 'ballgate' after England became the subject of a misconduct investigation by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL).



Alred and Stridgeon were found to have switched the ball Wilkinson was due to kick with on a number of occasions without requesting permission from referee Romain Poite, breaching the laws of the game.



"They made a mistake. They should have asked the referee. Whether they knew or not at that time, I am not too sure," said Johnson.



Rugby World Cup officials confirmed England would face no further sanctions, having been satisfied with the RFU's response - even though it meant no official questions were asked about how much Wilkinson or Johnson knew at the time.



This latest brush with authority comes after an eventful World Cup campaign for England, who were reprimanded by tournament officials when their shirt numbers peeled off in the game against Argentina.



Johnson then had to face down criticism over his players' conduct on a drunken night out in Queenstown bar hosting a dwarf-racing competition.



Mike Tindall also found himself at the centre of a media storm after being captured on CCTV at the Altitude Bar in conversation with a woman.



England also became the first team have a player suspended, after Courtney Lawes was found guilty of striking Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma with his knee.



"If you come to a World Cup there will be bumps in the road. We have dealt with those things, we have dealt with this and we move on," said Johnson.



The England manager preferred to focus his attention on tomorrow's decisive Pool B showdown with Scotland, which could leave one side facing elimination before the knockout stages for the first time.



England will still qualify if they earn a losing bonus point - but Johnson insisted the Eden Park clash is winner takes all.



"There has been a definite edge about it," Johnson said.



"We are playing knock-out rugby. This is where we want to be - playing a big pool game, wanting to win it to win the pool.



"There is lots of chat of getting bonus points but we want to win the Test match as we always do. That doesn't change."



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