James Corrigan: England stars' antics leave plenty to be desired but spare us the role model guff

The Way I See It: It didn't take Mystic Meg to work out that the press would swoop on any Tindall misdemeanour, what with all his connections

Wow, that dwarf story had some legs didn't it? But now the saga is finally drawing to its close – until England lose, that is – perhaps it is time to peer back and analyse what all the fuss was about.

In short, it was contained in five words uttered by the coach, Martin Johnson, in the wake of the raucous night at the Altitude bar in Queenstown just over two weeks ago. "Rugby player drinks beer – shocker." That angered people, or, more to the point, the people who are paid to be angry. They saw it as flippant, arrogant and worse of all condoning of the behaviour which was capped by video images of the husband of the queen's granddaughter in a clinch. They saw it through football men's eyes.

"Imagine if England footballers had acted this way..." Yes, that was written once or twice. Imagine, indeed. Imagine a foreign bar owner having the nerve to entice in the England football fans with promises of wildness and madness. Imagine that owner thinking so little of his property he would have football fans of different countries mixing, inebriated and stoked up. Those particular CCTV images wouldn't have been released on YouTube; you would have seen them on Crimewatch.

But then, imagine England footballers actually attending a bar which did not have a guest list and did not have Cristal champagne flowing at £500 a throw. Imagine them mixing with their supporters, signing autographs, as Mike Tindall and Co did, posing for pictures, talking through the finer points of the tournament. Imagine all you like. Imagine David Beckham lifting the World Cup if you must.

The point is rugby union is different to football. And that has nothing to do with class or type of education. Granted, Tindall did attend a fee-paying grammar school, but the rest of his party attended state schools. Google will confirm that many professional rugby players from many walks of life have regularly indulged in behaviour that football, and its observers, would find inappropriate. Take Wales, a land where rugby is the gospel for a public in which "private education" is what you do when you run through your 10 times table in the lavatory.

Each community has its rugby club as a focal point and each rugby club has its folklore built around alcohol and laddish antics. At my hometown club, whichever poor dolt it is who has just played his first away match is stripped as the bus goes through the town centre and thrown out to run past Greggs, Boots and Sainsbury's all the way back to the club. Funny? Well, one or two of the old ladies laughed.

It's not seemly, it's not right, it doubtless needs police correction. But it is rugby and it isn't football. Go to any rugby club in either Wales, England or Scotland and you will find a clubhouse bar. That just isn't the case with football, where the overwhelming majority of teams play on rented council pitches, using rented council changing rooms. That is a cultural difference, not a class difference and if it isn't Wales must be a damn sight more affluent than it realises.

That is what Johnson meant by his "shocker" quip. He didn't imagine what would have happened if he had been the England football manager because he isn't. If he was, he would not be subjected to the banter which greets him at every turn in Planet Rugby. If you want to imagine what would happen in a football setting, then there is a former England rugby player on the after-dinner circuit basing a portion of his act on how thick he believes Johnson to be.

Imagine the headlines if this was football and, say, Teddy Sheringham was bawling out that "if Fabio Capello's IQ was any lower they would have to water him". But Johnson shouldn't worry and doesn't. After all, it could be worse and Johnno could be the prominent Guinness Premiership coach who, claims the same speaker, was the "human voted the most likely to marry outside his species".

That would elicit a few headlines as well, particularly when rugby is suddenly top of the sporting agenda. Maybe it will, because the sport is occupying football's spotlight at the moment and is therefore receiving the football treatment. But all this role model guff and all this moralising is so over the top it's gone down the back and located the avenue to disappear right up itself.

There is only one way to view this and that is through a rugby prism. Talk about the effect alcohol can have on an athlete and that is one valid argument. There is another. Rugby coaches plot their tactics many moves in advance; the most important factor of the art is to predict what's going to happen and to base the gameplan on their prescience.

It didn't take Mystic Meg to work out that the press would swoop on any Tindall misdemeanour, what with all his connections. Of course, if he had married a commoner, there would have been none of this outrage. But does the identity of his wife mean he has more responsibility to be squeaky clean whilst representing his country. What a strange world, with a strange ethical set of values if it does. Now, that is class snobbery.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices