Three England players reprimanded by Johnson

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The Independent Online

England rugby manager Martin Johnson has reprimanded three players for their conduct and left them in "no doubt" about his anger following complaints from a female hotel worker.

James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton were made to formally apologise to Annabel Newton after she was reportedly teased with lewd comments.

According to the Sunday Mirror, Ms Newton, 23, said the men "treated me with no respect" after she was called into a hotel room to retrieve her walkie-talkie.

Addressing the allegations over player conduct in the team hotel, Johnson said: "I was angry with them. It is just the sort of thing we have talked about.

"What they thought was humour and a light-hearted exchange has clearly not been taken that way by Annabel, the girl involved.

"At the time they apologised when they realised they had stepped over the mark. They had no idea how upset she subsequently became.

"We were in Queenstown for a few days. When we returned I spoke to the hotel manager, apologised to him for the disturbance we had caused to him and his staff.

"The guys formally apologised. They were shocked when they understood how upset she had become.

"We investigated the facts fully. They have been disciplined. They have been reprimanded for their behaviour and left in no doubt.

"If you leave yourself open for these headlines to be written it drags us all into it and that is what makes me particularly angry."

The incident reportedly occurred in the days before England moved from Dunedin to Queenstown, where a number of players enjoyed a night out, which also hit the headlines.

Mike Tindall, who married the Princess Royal's daughter Zara Phillips at the end of July, has been in the spotlight for his actions that night, but his conduct was defended by Johnson today.

According to the Mail on Sunday, a spokesman for Tindall said the rugby star "apologises unreservedly" after initially denying claims he had gone to a second bar with the blonde woman whom he was seen hugging and kissing on CCTV.

England boss Johnson said any misleading information Tindall gave as to his whereabouts that night was a simple mistake and "not a cover-up".

"If he was inaccurate in his recollection of the events of the night and his specific whereabouts, he certainly didn't mean to mislead anyone. It was not an orchestrated cover-up," Johnson said.

"It was simply an error on his behalf which he apologises for."

Asked whether he would consider sending Tindall home, Johnson added: "His recollection is wrong of where he's been, and the order he's in there, and that is what it is.

"There's video footage that was available at the time so I don't think he'd be foolish enough to think he could get away with lying because of the situation he's in and the evidence that's available.

"So I think it's an innocent mistake and his recollection was incorrect."

Before the squad left for New Zealand, Johnson said he would not ban alcohol or impose curfews but he warned his squad to be mindful of their conduct during the World Cup.

"They are there to make sensible decisions. If I can't trust them, there is a simple choice for us to make," he said at the time.

Johnson today insisted he still trusted his players.

"I don't think they will take liberties," he said, and insisted he was confident there were no more stories of this nature to come out.

"Yeah, I am. I think it was a shock to those players that they'd left themselves open to appearing on the front page of a paper.

"That's upsetting for them, and it's obviously not great for the team. I don't want to sit here talking about these allegations when we've qualified for the quarter-finals of a World Cup."

England beat Scotland 16-12 yesterday and play France in the quarter-finals in Auckland next Saturday.