Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Brian Moore showed his class in telling Manu Tuilagi how it really was

Common approach: Manu Tuilagi received a strong reaction for his prank outside Number 10 as the Lions met David Cameron
Common approach: Manu Tuilagi received a strong reaction for his prank outside Number 10 as the Lions met David Cameron

Rugby football has long had a reputation for off-field escapades. In my experience these provoke mixed reactions, ranging from uproarious laughter to mild amusement en route to slight discomfort and finally through to total disgust.

Reaction hinges on one's sensitivities and demarcation lines. And – touchy one, this, but here goes anyway – social status. No, stop pussy-footing and call a spade a spade – okay, class.

There can be no disputing the fact that accent and job description see pardons granted to those who transgress from what normally is viewed as acceptable behaviour, whereas others might not be forgiven so readily.

The incontrovertible truth is that we have double standards; hypocrisy is rife. Nowhere is that more manifest than when it comes to the response to similar actions carried out by different people.

Thus it is good-natured, no-harm-done high-jinks if 30 touring rugby players and alikadoos dismantle a hotel room. But step back one pace and imagine the outcry if a party of 30 football (association variety) players and supporters were to do the same thing. Suddenly the fun and games becomes mindless hooliganism carried out by morons. Fair? Consistent? No, I didn't think so, either.

So pause to reflect on the case of one Manu Tuilagi, Leicester Tigers' England centre who on Monday attended a Downing Street reception hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron in recognition of the British and Irish Lions' summer heroics in Australia.

The powerhouse midfielder thought it would be funny to pull a 'bunny ears' stunt as they posed for a group photograph.

Again, ask yourself how a similar display of bad manners and misjudgment on the part of an English international footballer would have gone down? Wayne Rooney, in the same circumstances, would have been vilified.

Later, via Twitter, Tuilagi expressed his remorse thus: 'Apologies for messing around on Lions photo. No offence intended. Great day at Downing Street. Thanks to Prime Minister for hosting us.'

Class, eh? Not really. Which is ironic, given that class –noun not adjective in this case – is the issue here.

Former England and Lions hooker, Brian Moore, hit the nail bang on the head following Tuilagi's stupidity. Moore did not exactly have a silver spoon start to life – born to single mother and given up for adoption when he was seven months old. His view of Tuilagi's 'bunny ears' episode?

"He has been a complete and utter prat. He ought to grow up, it's as simple as that. But people saying they are offended – are they really offended?

"Why are you not offended about the fact that Cameron seems quite happy to preside over a government that has seen a 70% increase in the use of food banks? Now THAT is offensive," Moore said.

That's a class – adjective – statement in two senses. You really couldn't have put it better, sir (but don't hold your breath waiting for a knighthood now).

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