Like most people I imagine, I read the leaked Professional Game Board’s findings on England’s World Cup campaign in The Times on Wednesday with amazement.
For me, there were three elements to it which cause grave concern.
For one, England rugby is now a laughing stock. This awesome sport that has been so well perceived around the world has taken such a big hit in the very country where the game was invented.
It’s a bit of a shambles really and it could take years to get our credibility back with the rest of the world. That is very sad.
Secondly, for the players, the level of trust that has been lost with the leaking of that report is devastating.
They were invited to fill in those forms with the promise of anonymity being crucial in the way they reported back in an honest and open manner.
Will they do that again if asked? I doubt it.
I have had to fill in similar forms at previous clubs – although I have to point out that I have never written about dwarf tossing. The management don’t need our names, they just want to know what we feel about certain things. What’s good and what improvements can be made.
We fill them in with the promise of one thing, that what we say is confidential. The fact that confidentiality has been broken by this massive leak could have far-reaching consequences.
Finally, I think as players, we all need to accept that, all of a sudden, rugby seems to have changed. The media have a greater influence and there has been a notable switch.
We have to accept that and roll with it because we cannot have it both ways.
Most of us like to see our faces in the paper, on a magazine or on the internet because it means we must be doing well.
On the flip side, we have to be responsible for our actions. If we want to be in the limelight and get paid well for what we do, we have to accept the responsibility that comes with that.
I like the odd ‘social’ don’t get me wrong. But this perception of all rugby players, especially us front rowers, drinking loads all the time is outdated and frustrates me. This is not the 1970s. It’s a professional sport and a short career.
Players should have a drink and a laugh when the time is right to do so. That’s part of the team culture. But they should do it in a sensible manner. If the RFU put a tab behind the bar, there was no need to drink it dry. There has to be a good balance and that essence of timing is crucial.
The whole episode has been a sad one – and it isn’t over yet.
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