James Lawton: If Tindall and Co are such great pros, why cavort like amateurs?

Imagine the national outrage which might have ensued if Wayne Rooney had been similarly compromised

Forget for a moment Mike Tindall is wedded to the Royal family, which was obviously too much to ask of any red-blooded tabloid editor acquainted with the fact that he had been seen in a clinch with a large-bosomed denizen of a late-night New Zealand bar which specialises in dwarf-throwing contests.

Put aside also that he is captain of the England World Cup rugby team which a couple of weeks ago was pronounced sufficiently adult by their manager Martin Johnson to be absolved of any need to follow curfews, drinking bans and any of the other strictures that normally apply to fully fledged professional sports squads.

Imagine, instead, the concentrated national outrage which might have ensued if Wayne Rooney or John Terry or Rio Ferdinand had been similarly compromised after a performance generally agreed to be one of the most underwhelming in the infant tournament which every four years seeks to identify the best team in the world.

There would probably have been questions in the House – all based on the belief that superstar football players are over-paid, under-dedicated and, well, a disgrace to the nation.

This conclusion has been set on default mode for several decades now, reaching one early high point of disdain in 1996 when the likes of Paul Ince, Alan Shearer and Paul Gascoigne released some steam at the end of a tour of the Far East.

The boys became somewhat tired and emotional after stints in the "dentist's chair" of a Hong Kong bar. There was no throwing of dwarves, just a few minutes in the chair with their mouths wide open while someone poured in generous quantities of hard liquor.

One charge rarely levelled against rugby players, perhaps because quite a number of them enjoyed the benefits of private education, is that some of them appear to be spectacularly thick. No, when they throw dwarves, wrestle with bar girls, make bungee jumps and wild water raft descents on the eve of the most serious competition they are ever likely to face, it is generally considered not so much desperate irresponsibility, a failure to separate serious business from lad-like jaunting, but sheer high spirits, a macho lust for life. This also often includes, lest we forget, the kind of violence which if committed on the street would not elicit invitations to a royal wedding but another kind of visit to one of Her Majesty's establishments.

What we have in this latest episode, it is difficult not to believe, is more evidence that despite much heralding of the age of professional rugby union, the game is frequently rooted in some deeply amateurish behaviour. Johnson suggested that his game had moved beyond the need for petty restraints. In a professional age, international rugby players were entitled to be treated like genuinely, grown-up blokes. It's a reassuring image, the big hitters and the nippy threequarters, bonding like troops stepping down from the front line for a few hours.

The opening victory over Argentina was a vital first step but much of the execution was dismayingly poor, and, so why not a few reflections over a couple of beers, a relaxation of the tension which at one point had threatened to be fatal?

Unfortunately it is an image hardly supported by the tabloid pictures of the dishevelled Tindall, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley sprawling in the bar. These doubts were, naturally, dismissed in a statement from the Rugby Football Union which spoke of the players' enjoyment of a few hours off after a "hard-earned" and "passionate" victory.

Some devotees of the oval ball will no doubt be quick to point out that the England rugby team, unlike their football cousins, have behind them an impressive degree of achievement for which we don't, as in football, have to reach back 45 years.

England won the World Cup of rugby in Australia just eight years ago, then in 2007 reached another final in Paris. But then all the more reason, some might say, for an effort in New Zealand which speaks of more serious intent than some minor boyish rampage with the Extra B XV.

Three years ago an England party was seriously compromised in New Zealand by late-night drinking and charges of sexual misbehaviour with a local teenager. Judge Jeff Blackett, the union's legal adviser, produced a raft of recommendations, concluding with a roundhouse swipe at late drinking and poor discipline.

"Such activities," he declared, "are now inconsistent with the life of an elite professional rugby player in the modern era and membership of a team seeking to be the best in the world."

At that time, and perhaps understandably, he had no comment to make on the deleterious impact of late-night dwarf-throwing. Presumably, he would not have approved.


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before