There was just enough time between England’s quarter-final exit from the World Cup and their departure from New Zealand for one last embarrassing outbreak of dumb behaviour, and Manu Tuilagi – the youngest and brightest of the red-rose players on this benighted trip – duly obliged by jumping into Auckland harbour from a ferry and ending up in the central police station.
The England management promptly fined him £3,000 and will donate the money to a rugby charity raising funds for the earthquake ravaged city of Christchurch. Tuilagi, who was fined £4,800 by World Cup officials during the pool stage of the competition for wearing a sponsored mouthguard that contravened tournament rules, was among a group of defeated players who took a ferry to Waiheke Island, a popular spot known locally as “the island of wine”.
On returning to the quayside, he leapt into the water and swam a short distance to a pier at the downtown ferry terminal. “It could have been tragic,” said Warren Fowler, a ferry company service manager. “There were vessels coming in and the ferry was about to start reversing.” He was led away by police and formally warned before being released without charge.
Martin Johnson, whose management of the team at this tournament has been blighted by repeated breaches of discipline, described the act as “irresponsible” and warned Tuilagi as to his future conduct. “I’m really sorry – it was a silly thing to do,” said the player. “I apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
Those England players who did not leave the country within a few hours of losing to France at Eden Park on Saturday were expected to fly out today. That group includes Tuilagi, who was born in Samoa and has family in Auckland. He is expected back at Leicester without further ado.