Mike Tindall keen to move on from controversy

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Mike Tindall today failed to address the storm of controversy which has swirled around him since he went out drinking with a group of England players.

The Gloucester centre was speaking publicly for the first time since he was captured on CCTV in conversation with a woman in Queenstown's Altitude Bar.

Tindall looked sheepish as he sat alongside England manager Martin Johnson and both men side-stepped questions on the issue.

The Rugby Football Union announced at the outset of the press conference that only questions of a rugby nature would be permitted.

Tindall briefly denied the last week had been a challenging time for him and said he hoped his form would hold up "fine" as he prepares to start against Romania on Saturday.

Johnson then intervened to deflect all further questions on the subject, including inquiries as to whether the saga had been a distraction to the squad.

"We have put it to bed. We are looking forward to a big game, we are playing Romania," said Johnson.

Tindall missed last Sunday's 41-10 victory over Georgia which, according to Johnson, was down to squad rotation and not a disciplinary decision.

But the 2003 World Cup-winning centre is back to start in an England team featuring seven changes, including the return of wing Mark Cueto.

Asked whether the last week had been difficult, Tindall mumbled: "Not really, you just get on and train.

"You want to play every game and I was disappointed I didn't get a run out last weekend but you work hard and hope you get picked by the coach every week. It is as simple as that."

Tindall was then asked by a television reporter whether he had anything to add, whether he wanted to show some "contrition" or offer an explanation and Johnson jumped in.

"I said to you last week what happened, the guys went out and had a drink. We had that conversation last week," said Johnson.

"We have moved on. We have played a game and we have another one this week."

A source close to Tindall and his new wife Zara Phillips, the Queen's grand-daughter, has said the woman in the CCTV footage is an old friend of the couple.

Phillips has flown out to New Zealand and is understood to be heading to Dunedin in time for the match.

Johnson has named his strongest available side to face Romania, with Tindall and Manu Tuilagi joined by Jonny Wilkinson in midfield.

Cueto takes over from Delon Armitage on the wing after shaking off a back problem while hooker Steve Thompson, prop Alex Corbisiero, lock Louis Deacon and flanker Tom Croft all come into the starting pack.

James Haskell continues at number eight in the injury-enforced absence of Nick Easter.

Johnson is also without the suspended lock Courtney Lawes while prop Matt Stevens has been struggling with an ankle injury.

Johnson blasted England for being "sloppy" against Georgia and for a lack of discipline in both defence and attack, which led to a "brutal" honesty session.

When England ruled the world under Johnson's captaincy they prided themselves on a single-figure penalty count - but last Sunday they had conceded 11 by half-time.

When the game eventually opened up in the second period, Johnson was furious that England became loose and wasted attacking opportunities.

His message immediately after the match was that England will be on an early flight home unless there is a marked improvement in standards.

Johnson drew on his bitter memories of England's early exit from the 1999 World Cup, when he had to play for Leicester against Newcastle on the day of the semi-finals.

"If you get it wrong you will be home very quickly watching the latter stages," said Johnson.

"Make sure you have done everything you can to be as good as you can right now. Let's make sure we can be as good as we can be in every training session."

Tindall revealed the squad had reacted positively to that jolt of reality.

"We have had a good week's training. Obviously we weren't happy with the game last Sunday, especially the last 20 minutes and the forced errors," Tindall said.

"This week has been outstanding. All the training days have been really good, really sharp and a big step up from where we have been in the last two or three weeks.

"With a World Cup you have always got to get the mentality right because it is such a short format. You have to switch on for every game, every training session and to have the focus to be switched on.

"That is something we have talked about and hopefully we will get better and better as we go through the World Cup."