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Johnson reveals 'ballgate' regret

Martin Johnson has revealed his regret over the ball-switch scandal which has led to two senior members of the England management team being banned from Saturday's Scotland clash.

Jonny Wilkinson's mentor Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon were found to have illegally switched balls during England's 67-3 victory over Romania.

"Paul and David did what they did in the heat and confusion of a Test. We should have asked the referee (if they could switch balls), we didn't. They asked us to stop, we did," said Johnson. "I don't suspend guys lightly. We regret what we did and it was wrong. In the heat of a World Cup match these guys have made a mistake and they have paid for it."

The RFU were forced to act on 'ballgate' after England became the subject of a misconduct investigation by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL).

Alred and Stridgeon were found to have switched the ball Wilkinson was due to kick with on a number of occasions without requesting permission from referee Romain Poite, breaching the laws of the game.

"They made a mistake. They should have asked the referee. Whether they knew or not at that time, I am not too sure," added Johnson.

Rugby World Cup officials confirmed England would face no further sanctions, having been satisfied with the RFU's response.

The England manager preferred to focus his attention on Saturday's decisive Pool B showdown with Scotland, which could leave one side facing elimination before the knockout stages for the first time.

England will still qualify if they earn a losing bonus point - but Johnson insisted the Eden Park clash is winner-takes-all, saying: "There has been a definite edge about it. We are playing knock-out rugby. This is where we want to be - playing a big pool game, wanting to win it to win the pool.

"There is lots of chat of getting bonus points but we want to win the Test match as we always do. That doesn't change."


From Belfast Telegraph