Four Wales internationals, including the centre Gavin Henson and the first-choice No 8 Andy Powell, were last night hauled over the coals by the team management for their behaviour in a Cardiff city |centre bar last Sunday night, 24 hours after a third successive Six Nations victory over England. Henson, Powell, the prop Rhys Thomas and the back-row forward Jonathan Thomas were said to have offered their “sincere apologies” to Warren Gatland, the head coach, and Alan Phillips, the manager.
Two more players, the full-back Lee Byrne and the scrum-half Mike Phillips, were also questioned by the reigning Six Nations champions’ hierarchy, and all six were warned over their “various levels of involvement” in events at a pub opposite the Millennium Stadium. Byrne and Phillips, both of whom played in the game, were not heavily implicated, but the other four admitted to unspecified acts of misconduct and received what the Welsh Rugby Union described as a “rebuke”. Henson, who, like the two Thomases, was not involved in the match, apologised to “any member of the public he might have offended”.
Meanwhile, the France coach Marc Lièvremont tore into the organisers of the Six Nations over their decision to shift his team’s pivotal meeting with Wales next weekend to a Friday evening slot. Rugby followers from all points of the compass – Castres as well as Cardiff, Biarritz as well as Bridgend – will thank the former Test flanker for his frankness, for they are increasingly frustrated by constant disruption to traditional championship weekends.
Tournament administrators have been diddling around with the fixture programme for some years, introducing Sunday games – not always successfully, particularly in Scotland – as well as moving kick-off times forwards and backwards at the behest of rights-holding broadcasters. Lièvremont is not alone in hoping that this experiment with a Friday night start will prove unworthy of further investigation.
“I don’t like evening games,” he said, after announcing a recall for the long-serving Stade Français prop Sylvain Marconnet in place of the injured Nicolas Mas. “Six Nations games should be played at 1500 hours on a Saturday. Evening kick-offs are bad for the players: there is a long wait during the day, they lose a lot of energy, they are stressed, and in February, the weather conditions are far from perfect.”
The England management sent 17 players back to their clubs for this weekend’s round of Premiership matches, although that contingent included only one who started against Wales: the outside-half Andy Goode, who was released to the French club Brive because the |Rugby Football Union’s rules on squad access do not cover off-shore |personnel.
The most interesting decision surrounded the Leicester midfielder Toby Flood, who was kept behind – an indication that he is under careful consideration for the No 10 role against Ireland at Croke Park in nine days’ time.Reuse content