England’s players hit the front pages for all the wrong reasons during their tour of New Zealand. But it’s not the first time rugby has seen its good standing marred, as our list of unfortunate incidents shows
French No.8 kills his wife
French rugby was left reeling in 2004 when former No.8 Marc Cecillion was convicted of the murder of his wife Chantal. The ‘Quiet Man’ had descended into alcoholism following his departure from the Test arena in 1995 and among the rugby wives in France there was much talk of unrest between the couple. But they were shocked when, drunk, Cecillon (right) returned to an end-of-season party and in front of 60 people he pulled a .357 magnum from his shorts and fired four bullets into his wife. “I fell into alcoholism whilst being totally wrapped up in my own little bubble,” the former French international captain told the court at his trial. “I exploded without knowing why.”
Sailor fails drugs test
Having made his mark in the Test arena after a glittering career in rugby league, Australian wing Wendell Sailor disgraced himself when he was banned for two years after testing positive for cocaine. The former Waratah’s positive test came after a game against the ACT Brumbies on 16 April, 2004 and effectively ended his career in union. “Unfortunately I, like many other young Australians, fell to the off-field temptation of a so called ‘party drug’,” said Sailor.
Bruiser Brennan belts a fan
In 2007 Toulouse's Irish forward Trevor Brennan overstepped the mark in a classic case of the red mist during a Heineken Cup clash with Ulster. After some reported chanting that his pub in Toulouse, De Danu was ‘a load of rubbish’ from a contingent of Ulster fans, the fiery forward took it upon himself to interrupt his warm-up and enter the stand, where he rained a series of punches down on one supporter. Brennan was banned for life and fined £17,000 for the assault.
Yates hit with ear-biting ban
In 1998 London Scottish flanker Simon Fenn was left needing 25 stitches to a ripped earlobe. Video evidence of the perpetrator was inconclusive, but a villain was fingered and Saracens prop Kevin Yates was found guilty and banned for six months, losing in the region of £100,000 in legal fees and lost earnings. Yates maintains his innocence to this day.
Dallaglio’s drugs sting
In 1999 Lawrence Dallaglio resigned the England captaincy following newspaper allegations that he had taken and dealt hard drugs. Dallaglio categorically denied the claims made in the News of the World. Dallaglio added: “The circumstances in which the supposed admissions were obtained amounted to an elaborate set-up.”
But editor Phil Hall said: “We stand by our story. Lawrence Dallaglio is damned in his own words and frankly, we are amazed at his denial.”
The RFU dropped drugs charges against Dallaglio after ‘new evidence’ emerged during an open hearing chaired by a high court judge who decided not to ban him but instead imposed a fine of £15,000 for bringing the game into disrepute.
All Blacks in the picture
After a Test match in New Zealand in 2007 two women approached newspapers offering them photographs of an All Black player involved in a threesome. The papers didn’t take them up on their offer despite the player being clearly visible in the snap. The women alleged they had sex for up to seven hours with the star, the claim coming after coach Graham Henry had described his squad as “marvellous role models for the country.”
The player and the princess
Former England captain Will Carling did little for both his clean cut image and the name of rugby when he hit the headlines in mid- 1990s after allegedly having a romantic relationship with Princess Diana. Divorce between Carling and his wife Julia followed and it wasn’t long before the tabloids were dubbing the ex-Harlequins man a love rat.
The mystery of Keith Murdoch
After thumping a security guard outside a hotel in Wales in 1972, Murdoch was sent home in disgrace. But he reportedly disembarked at Singapore and headed to Australia under an assumed name and disappeared into the Outback to live a life of solitude. In 2001 Murdoch was wanted in connection with the death of an aboriginal man. The coroner heard the man broke into Murdoch's house on 6 October 2000 and he was allegedly heard by a neighbour pleading not to be “bashed”. His decomposed body was found three weeks later. Murdoch was questioned, but not charged. He left town soon after the body was discovered. A territory wide search for him as a potentially crucial inquest witness began.
Storming Norm goes into battle
After going eyeball to eyeball with each other during the Haka in 1997, hookers Norm Hewitt and Richard Cockerill took their on-field rivalry out on to the streets of Dunedin a year later when, after the first Test in 1998, they were seen brawling both inside and outside a taxi in a drink-fuelled scrap that left the England man with a black eye. The tour was brimful of ill feeling between the two camps after a war of words between coaches Clive Woodward and John Hart.
Johnno’s red carpet rumpus
Martin Johnson managed to upset all Ireland when he refused to budge after lining up on the Irish side of the red carpet ahead of the 2003 Six Nations decider at Lansdowne Road. The Irish ran out to take their usual side, which meant going beyond Johnson’s men and lining up on the turf, leaving the other half of the red carpet empty, and forcing Irish President Mary McAleese to get her shoes muddy as she greeted the players.
While the Irish players made little of the incident, journalist and broadcaster Tony McGurk said later: “It really was shitting on somebody else’s doorstep and saying, ‘Yes. We did it. We’re here to take over.’”
Unnecessary Force costs Henjak dear
Western Force scrum-half Matt Henjak was sacked by the Australian franchise earlier this year after leaving team-mate Haig Sare with a broken jaw following an altercation in a Fremantle hotel. Henjak was reported to have ‘savagely punched’ Sare while he was sitting down, unable to defend himself. The incident was not the first time Henjak had been in bother, having been sent home from a Wallabies tour in South Africa in 2005 for an incident in a nightclub.
England thrown out of Five Nations
After the RFU signed an £87m TV deal with Sky Sports in 1996, the Celtic countries threw them out of the Five Nations Championship but they were reinstated in time to play in the 1997 tournament. Two years later they were out once again after failing to meet the deadline for accepting the agreement reached over distribution of TV revenue. “The deadline having passed,” read a Five Nations Committee statement, “England ceased to be a member of the Five Nations committee and the Championship.” Things looked gloomy for a while as there appeared no way back for the Red Rose brigade. But former England international Mike Burton was more confident. “I bet my ear to a bag of sweets this will be sorted out in three days, and they will all go out and have dinner,” he predicted. In fact, England’s exile lasted just 20 hours. Brian Baister, RFU chairman and Five Nations committee chairman Alan Hosie thrashed out an agreement over the TV cash dispute and England were back in.
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