Flood warning to England – show more responsibility
On a day when England centre Manu Tuilagi became the latest player embroiled in an off-field saga for wearing a sponsored mouthguard, Flood’s call took on extra credence.
Tuilagi has been fined NZ$10,000 (£4,800) by Rugby World Cup officials for the offending gumshield.
Tuilagi, whose elder brother Alesana was sanctioned for the same offence last week, wore the Opro mouthguard in England’s first two victories over Argentina and Georgia.
The International Rugby Board’s policy is not to announce any fines that are imposed during the tournament but England were forced to admit the breach yesterday.
A Rugby Football Union spokesman said: “Manu wore a mouthguard where the branding was visible in the Georgia match when it shouldn’t have been so therefore he’s been fined NZ$10,000.
“It was a genuine error and he’s trying now to focus on Saturday’s game.”
The RFU spokesman insisted England had not been fined for any other breaches during the tournament. The fact both brothers were fined for the same offence has led to suggestions they deliberately flouted the IRB’s strict advertising and sponsorship rules.
But Tuilagi insisted they were not part of any ambush marketing campaign.
“I didn’t know I had worn the wrong gumshield and I got fined for it,” Tuilagi said.
“We always wore the same mouthguard, mine is the England one from the under-18s but it’s got ‘Opro’ on the front and that’s not allowed in the World Cup.
“I coloured it in with marker pen for the Romania game. I wore it against Argentina but they didn’t know.”
Tuilagi’s fine is England’s latest brush with authority on a World Cup campaign being dogged by controversy.
Last week, Martin Johnson was forced to suspend two members of his coaching staff after they were spotted illegally changing the ball during England’s win over Romania. The RFU, who had feared a potential points deduction, banned kicking coach Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon from the Scotland game.
Johnson was then forced to angrily reprimand James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton for their reportedly teasing a hotel worker with lewd comments.
The England manager has defended Mike Tindall, who has reportedly “apologised unreservedly” for misleading the RFU about his whereabouts on a now infamous night out in Queenstown.
On the field, England have had Courtney Lawes and Delon Armitage suspended.
All of which led to Leicester fly-half and former Bradford Bulls rugby league star Shontayne Hape providing an insight into the disappointment some England players feel about the recent headline-grabbing controversies.
While Mark Cueto launched a vehement defence of England’s conduct and blamed the media for making a “mountain out of a molehill”, Flood sees the issue from a broader perspective.
He believes the first responsibility lies on the shoulders of each player and Hape admitted that “a couple of the guys have let the squad down”. But in an address worthy of a potential captain, Flood demanded England put all the distractions behind them and present a united front for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final clash with France.
“I think Mark’s point is valid to a degree in terms of there’s been a lot been written about it. However you’re in a World Cup,” said Flood, who is unlikely to start unless Jonny Wilkinson fails to recover from an elbow problem suffered in England’s victory over Scotland. Wilkinson trained lightly yesterday but Otley-born Tindall took no part as he continued to recover from a dead leg.
Flood continued: “There’s a lot more fuss, a lot more that goes on with it. You stand by what you do as a person. You have to be accountable for what happens in life. By no means does that make somebody an idiot because as a squad there’s a camaraderie there. You surround them and you’re behind them. That’s what we have to do as a squad.
“When somebody is suffering it’s important to rally around them and deal with it – and that’s what we have to do at the moment.”