RPA concerns over 'misinformation'
The Rugby Players Association insist individual players should not be "hung out to dry" in the fall-out from England's disappointing World Cup campaign and claim there has been "misinformation fed into the press" which has blown various incidents out of proportion.
Martin Johnson's side lost to France in the quarter-finals after a campaign marred by incidents of indiscipline. Fran Cotton, the former Rugby Football Union vice-chairman, has agreed to lead an external review into the whole England set-up, which will shine the spotlight on both Johnson and his immediate boss Rob Andrew.
RPA chief executive Damian Hopley said: "Our fundamental concern is that we don't make scapegoats of the players or hang individuals out to dry, especially in the current clamour for bloodletting across the game."
The RPA say all the players will contribute their "full and frank" comments in confidence to the Professional Game Board (PGB) review - which was agreed on September 8 and is completely separate to the Cotton review - but the union believe England's players have been undermined by the reporting of their conduct.
RPA chief executive Damian Hopley said: "With regard to the off-field incidents that have been widely reported, there has been significant misinformation fed into the press that has compromised some of the players, and this is considerably harmful in undermining the players' positions.
"Indeed the very public outpouring of disapproval heaped on these players over the past month is disproportionate to the actual events that happened."
Mike Tindall, who was shown on security footage in conversation with a woman, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were among the England players pictured at the Altitude bar in Queenstown during the tournament.
It later emerged that Johnson had reprimanded James Haskell, Ashton and Hartley for making lewd comments to a female staff member at their Dunedin hotel, while Manu Tuilagi was fined £4,800 for wearing a branded mouthguard and was then detained by Auckland police after jumping from a ferry as it was about to berth the day after England were knocked out of the World Cup.
Hopley added: "The RPA are here to support the players. That doesn't mean we condone any inappropriate behaviour but it means we listen to the players first, we work out what was wrong and what was embellished.
"If any player has made a mistake we trust them to hold their hand up and accept full responsibility for their actions. It's imperative that all stakeholders work together to make sure mistakes aren't repeated. This PGB review is all about identifying collective responsibility and rebuilding trust and confidence in our players, the England team and the RFU. Everyone must be accountable for their actions."