ENGLAND wing Mark Cueto has branded coverage of his team’s off-field escapades “horrendous” and has denied their World Cup campaign has been irrevocably tainted by the lurid accusations that have marred their progress to the quarter-finals.
Members of the squad, including vice-captain Mike Tindall were heavily criticised for embarking on a night out in Queenstown after their first match, while it emerged on Sunday that manager Martin Johnson had reprimanded James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley for comments made to a female worker at their hotel.
Cueto believes the seriousness of the incidents have been blown out of proportion but conceded that the reaction had been a lesson to the squad about the pressures of playing at a World Cup.
He said: “You are talking about a couple of guys who have gone out for a few beers. That’s the bottom line – what’s wrong with that?”
“If we were in England nothing would have been said about it but because we are in New Zealand it gets talked about in the press for a week. If the boys can’t go out and have a couple of beers, it’s a sad world that we live in.”
Cueto felt it particularly necessary to launch a vehement defence of Tindall, whose seniority and marriage to the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Phillips have helped render his exploits particularly newsworthy.
“You’ve run the story for 10 days. It’s horrendous. Give the guy a break,” he said. “There have been a couple of things gone on and in another country they may have been nothing but in this country, with the goldfish bowl we are in, it is a big deal.
“It is a reality check that such a small thing can be made into such a massive deal. As a group of players we have spoken about it with and without the management. I am sure there will be no more stories like that to come out.”
ENGLAND DE-ARMED: Delon banned for France
ENGLAND will be without winger Delon Armitage for Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against France after he was handed a one-match ban at a disciplinary hearing for a “dangerous high tackle” on Scotland’s Chris Paterson during last weekend’s Pool B clash. Armitage’s place is likely to be taken by Mark Cueto.