Ruck and Maul: Organisers fail to get shirty with the French. Was there a cover-up?

 

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The Independent Online

Shock horror, has a member of the France squad got away with flouting the rules that saw the Tuilagi brothers each slapped with a £5,000 fine for wearing a branded mouthguard?

No names, no pack drill – Ruck and Maul is no snitch – but we spotted a dastardly person in the French coaches' booth during a pool match wearing a T-shirt that was branded with the kit manufacturer's name in huge capital letters. Could a World Cup spokesman confirm an imminent trip to the guillotine?

No, that would be a "contractual breach" and it would be up to the French Federation to confirm the crime had been picked up, if indeed it has. The miscreant covered up the brand name with his tracksuit top later in the match, so perhaps he was told in time to zip it (up).

Meanwhile, the former All Black Andy Haden had an alternative take on the mouthguard misdemeanours which earned the Tuilagis' sponsors much more than 10 grand's worth of publicity (and you smell a rat when you learn that all the team managers were told the rules at workshops in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and again before kick-off here).

"I used to put my line-out calls on the mouthguard for the hookers to see," said Haden. "Because they were pretty thick, some of those hookers."

Now Ashton is lost for words

A set-to between a British newspaper and the Rugby Football Union over Chris Ashton's ghosted column following the England wing's reprimand for the incident with a Dunedin hotel worker led to the column not appearing the week before last. All concerned were unable to agree what not to say, as it were.

There are 11 England players here who are "penning" columns in newspapers or online, compared with just three from France, where it has never been a tradition. And Imanol Harinordoquy's diary in the Sud Ouest newspaper, Fabien Barcella's in La Dépêche and Pascal Papé's in Le Figaro tend to stick to gentle stuff like family news and the latest forest they have visited.

It's got beyond a joke, Nigel

Nigel Owens, the Welsh referee in charge of the All Blacks versus Argentina today, used to do a bit of stand-up comedy, and seemingly cannot resist the old patter.

When he was not missing whether a Scottish dropped goal had gone over against England – he was busy ducking instead of watching the ball – he wisecracked his way through the South Africa versus Samoa match that brought him fierce opprobrium from the Samoans.

"I'll never be a hooker and you'll never be a referee," Owens told a grumbling Samoa captain, Mahonri Schwalger. And to the same man, who had been told to delay a line-out for an injury: "What part of 'wait' don't you understand?"

Tindall on road to redemption

Mike Tindall is excited at his recent purchase of a Harley Davidson motorbike, he tells England Rugby magazine – perhaps it was bought as a celebration of the end of his three-year drink-driving ban, which was handed down in January 2009.

Tindall also told the magazine he believes that his Gloucester team-mate James Simpson-Daniel is the "most gifted individual" in English rugby, though "Sinbad" failed to make the cut for Martin Johnson's World Cup squad.

hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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