FORMER captain Mike Tindall’s illustrious international career looks finished after he was ruthlessly sacked from England’s elite player squad and fined £25,000 by the Rugby Football Union.
The disgraced Otley-born centre, who has won 75 caps, paid a heavy price for his “unacceptable” behaviour during some lurid antics at a bar in Queenstown, New Zealand this September.
Tindall, who married the Queen’s granddaugher Zara Phillips in July, was caught with his head in a woman’s cleavage during dour England’s failed World Cup attempt.
He and team-mates were infamously seen downing shots of spirits at a ‘dwarf-throwing’ event the day after a dismal opening game – the start of a wretched tournament littered with off-field problems which ended with a lacklustre quarter-final defeat against France.
The Gloucester star, 33, was hit with the severe punishment yesterday but swiftly vowed to appeal the fine.
However, Phil Larder, England assistant coach when Tindall helped win the 2003 World Cup, believes the tough stance was required as a sage reminder to the nation’s younger internationals.
“I spoke to some players who were there in 2003 and again in this tournament,” he told the Yorkshire Post. “They were of the opinion that the antics off the pitch were so distracting that it really hampered their ability to train and get mentally right to play in a World Cup.
“With that in mind, this is the right decision. These guys are earning a lot of money and the size of the fine has got to be substantial enough to really hurt them.
“When you read how much alcohol was being taken and that Tindall was a senior player – captain if Lewis Moody wasn’t fit – then this had to be done.
“It will certainly help smarten up some of the younger players who seem to have been going down that line, too.
“I do feel sorry for Mike as he’s a proud man and it’s a sad way for his international career to finish. He was a model professional with us in 2003, very coachable, very well-behaved and one of the best centres in the world.
“But this is the end of his England career and I think it would have been finished anyway; there’s far betters centres around now.”
Later during the ill-fated trip, England manager Martin Johnson reprimanded Tindall’s colleagues James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton following a female hotel worker’s complaint she had been subjected to lewd comments in Dunedin.
Haskell and Ashton have received £5,000 suspended fines from the RFU and warned about their future conduct, although Hartley was cleared.
The players appeared before the RFU’s professional rugby director Rob Andrew and legal and governance director Karena Vleck.
“We have considered all the evidence carefully and interviewed the players at length,” said former England fly-half Andrew. “These actions have not been taken lightly, but we believe that in all these cases the sanctions are commensurate with the level of seriousness of what occurred.
“Mike Tindall’s actions reached a level of misconduct that was unacceptable in a senior England player and amounted to a very serious breach of the elite player squad code of conduct.
“While we acknowledge his previous good character, it needs to be made clear that what he did will not be tolerated.”
Tindall, educated at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, is in the Gloucester side which visits Toulouse in the Heineken Cup tomorrow.
Mike Harrison, another QEGS pupil who captained England in the 1987 World Cup, said: “There has always been high jinx on rugby tours but it’s a different era now.
“Players have got to be aware that they are now more in the spotlight, especially Mike with the press surrounding the Royal Family as well. He’s been a great stalwart for England and had a fantastic career. I don’t know if this will be the end for him – it depends how he reacts.
“Some people will say we need more talent coming through in the backs anyway as we have looked a bit static at times.”