The England squad arrived back in Britain yesterday from their tour of New Zealand which made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Two defeats by the All Blacks were overshadowed by allegations of sexual assault against four players.
The squad, following Saturday's 44-12 drubbing in Christchurch, landed at Heathrow Airport just before midday. The players were under instructions not to comment as they made their way through Terminal 4's arrivals area but Rob Andrew, the Rugby Football Union's director of elite rugby, said: "We are pleased to be back."
Asked if the tour was "a bit of a nightmare all round", he said, "Look, we have got to wait and see what happens. We are still part of an ongoing police inquiry. As far as the players are concerned, we have to support them in this." Andrew said lawyers had advised him not to name the four players involved in the alleged incident.
New Zealand police said they were investigating after an 18-year-old woman made claims of sexual assault or rape against four England players. But in the absence of an official complaint, the four were free to leave the country. In response to the scandal, England officials announced a new set of standards for the players, including a clause preventing them from bringing women back to the team hotel.
The Lions head coach, Ian McGeechan said that if the incoming team manager, Martin Johnson, had been on the tour the alleged incident would have been prevented. "Martin knows what it takes to win, and he could relax in the right way," McGeechan said. "He would set an example where he would not allow this environment to develop." McGeechan also said a code of conduct was essential for touring teams.