WAL AUS 18 - 21

Johnson blows off ‘ballgate’

Johnson blows off ‘ballgate’

Moving on: Martin Johnson

England coach Martin Johnson denied a welter of problems were affecting their World Cup campaign after two coaches were suspended for illegally swapping balls.

Johnson insisted “it’s not one thing after another” following the ‘ballgate’ affair, which follows stories involving centre Mike Tindall and a mystery blonde, and a two-match ban on lock Courtney Lawes.

Johnson criticised coaches Dave Alred and Paul Stridgeon for choosing which balls to use for conversions - an offence under IRB rules - by misfiring kicker Jonny Wilkinson during the 67-3 win over Romania.

But he said the incidents were not distracting his players ahead of their final Pool B game against Scotland, and accused the media of giving them too much importance.

“It’s not one thing after another. Most of the time we’re training and getting ready for games,” Johnson said.

“I said to you last week, if you’re referring to Mike, you guys blew that up out of all proportion.

“We dealt with it at the time. You ask questions, I answer them, players go and train and get on with playing games so I’ve got no issues with it.

“If you come to a World Cup there’s going to be a few bumps in the road. You may regard them as big, we just get on with it. We’ve dealt with those things, we’ve dealt with this. We move on.”

Alred and Stridgeon were both barred from the Scotland game over ‘ballgate’, which comes just as England had dragged attention away from the Tindall affair and back to their rugby with a clinical display against Romania.

CCTV footage of Tindall and the blonde woman - taken at a Queenstown bar which featured dwarf-throwing, and just weeks after he married Royal heir Zara Phillips - caused a sensation when it was posted on the internet.

And England’s campaign was also dealt a blow when Lawes became the first player of the World Cup to be suspended, over a knee to the head of Argentina hooker Mario Ledesma.

Johnson said Alred and Stridgeon had made a mistake “in the heat of the game”, but that the matter was now closed.

“You’ve got to be prepared for what comes at you in a World Cup in the heat of the game, and in the heat of a World Cup match these guys have made a mistake, as simple as that,” he said.

“They’ve paid for it. It was flagged up to us, they were asked to stop, they did stop. They’re going to miss this game, we move on.

“They made a mistake. They should have asked the referee. Whether they knew or not at that time I’m not too sure. But they should have asked the referee, we knew that.”

‘Ballgate’ recalls a similar indiscretion in 2003, when England briefly fielded 16 players during their pool game against Samoa. England, who went on to lift the title, were fined and a member of their staff was banned for two matches.

Some New Zealand media said England had got off lightly with the self-imposed, one-game ban for their coaches, compared with news that Samoa’s Alesana Tuilagi is facing a big fine for wearing a mouthguard with a non-endorsed logo.


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Who will win The Open Championship at St Andrews?

Poll Results

  • Rory McIlroy 0.00%
  • Sergio Garcia 0.00%
  • Jordan Spieth 0.00%
  • Rickie Fowler 0.00%
  • Justin Rose 0.00%
All times are local:
"NZST = GMT +13 ; BST +12 ; CEST/SAST +11
9th September TongaNew Zealand41-10
10th September RomaniaScotland34-24
11th September ItalyAustralia32-6
WalesSouth Africa17-16
14th September NamibiaSamoa49-12
15th September USARussia6-13
16th September JapanNew Zealand83-7
17th September RomaniaArgentina43-8
FijiSouth Africa49-3
18th September SamoaWales17-10
20th September RussiaItaly53-17
21st September JapanTonga31-18
22nd September NamibiaSouth Africa87-0
23rd September USAAustralia67-5
24th September RomaniaEngland67-3
FranceNew Zealand37-17
25th September SamoaFiji7-27
26th September NamibiaWales81-7
27th September JapanCanada23-23
28th September RomaniaGeorgia25-9
30th September SamoaSouth Africa13-5
1st October RussiaAustralia68-22
2nd October GeorgiaArgentina25-7
CanadaNew Zealand79-15
8th October WalesIreland10-22
9th October AustraliaSouth Africa9-11
ArgentinaNew Zealand33-10
15th October FranceWales8-9
16th October New ZealandAustralia6-20
21st October AustraliaWales18-21
23rd October New ZealandFrance7-8
Pool A
Pos Team P Pts
1 New Zealand 4 20
2 France 4 11
3 Tonga 4 9
4 Canada 4 6
5 Japan 4 2

Pool B
Pos Team P Pts
1 England 4 18
2 Argentina 4 14
3 Scotland 4 11
4 Georgia 4 4
5 Romania 4 0

Pool C
Pos Team P Pts
1 Ireland 4 17
2 Australia 4 15
3 Italy 4 10
4 USA 4 4
5 Russia 4 1

Pool D
Pos Team P Pts
1 South Africa 4 18
2 Wales 4 15
3 Samoa 4 10
4 Fiji 4 5
5 Namibia 4 0

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