Brett Sinkinson barely spoke a word in public during his successful run in the Wales back row, so it came as no particular surprise when he adopted a Garbo-esque silence as soon as the eligibility scandal blew up in his face.
Yesterday, however, he broke that silence, insisting that he was merely an innocent victim of circumstances and denying that Graham Henry, his New Zealand countryman and Red Dragon coach, persuaded him to falsify his background in an effort to circumvent rugby's rules on international qualification.
"I did not set out to deceive anyone," said Sinkinson, the 29-year-old flanker from the Bay of Plenty who, along with his compatriot Shane Howarth, has effectively been suspended from Henry's Six Nations team pending investigations both by the Welsh Rugby Union and the International Rugby Board. "My father always believed his own father came from Wales" - he was in fact born in Oldham - "and I acted on that basis when I told the WRU I was eligible.
"Graham Henry did not tell me to say I was something I wasn't; maybe mistakes were made, but it's not fair that Graham should take the whole blame. Other people were involved. This whole business has been the worst thing to happen to me, but no one can take away what I went through with Wales. I was proud to represent the country, it was the highlight of my life and I still haven't given up hope of appearing for them again. If the IRB do not change the rules, I will qualify next year on residential grounds."
Sinkinson originally claimed a grandfather from Carmarthen, although he now admits that he "did not pretend to know the difference between Carmarthen and Caernarvon". The latter is at least somewhere near Oldham, and the WRU believes that its own investigations show Sinkinson, Howarth and Henry in a better light than of late. The IRB will consider the union report at their week-long gathering in Dublin, which begins on Friday.
During deliberations, they will be under pressure from the Australian Rugby Union to find against Wales in the on-going financial dispute over Jason Jones-Hughes, the centre who gave up a Wallaby career to join Henry before last year's World Cup. The Australians are demanding £60,000 in compensation from the WRU, on the grounds that Jones-Hughes, an Under-21 cap Down Under, was developed in Sydney rather than Colwyn Bay, where the player's father was born.
"Our calculations are on the conservative side, but we've heard nothing from Wales," said John O'Neill, the chief executive of the ARU. "We'll be asking the IRB to look at it because the behaviour by the Welsh is far from acceptable and shows a complete lack of etiquette. They knocked off one of our players and now they don't want to pay."
While the rugby world was giggling at the thought of an Australian complaining about lack of etiquette, one of England's successful brat pack found little to smile at yesterday. Ben Cohen, the new red rose left wing, was dropped from the Northampton side to play Sale at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday. "Ben knows his performances at international level need to be underpinned by performances at club level," John Steele, the Saints' director of rugby, said. "His performance in our last Premiership match at Gloucester was not up to his usual high standards."
Matt Dawson, the England captain, will miss the game with a shoulder injury, and has been joined on the casualty list by two more senior Saints, Tim Rodber and Don Mackinnon.Reuse content