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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
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

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on