ENGLAND centre Shontayne Hape admits he feels let down by the off-field conduct of those team-mates who were reprimanded by manager Martin Johnson, but denied the suggestion his side are spiralling out of control.
The trio of James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were recently read the riot act by Johnson over inappropriate comments they made to a female hotel worker.
Vice-captain Mike Tindall was also heavily criticised for embarking on a night out in Queenstown after England’s first match against Argentina.
And Hape, contradicting team-mate Mark Cueto, who on Monday claimed press coverage of England’s nocturnal activities was “horrendous” and “blown out of all proportion”, believes the behaviour of his colleagues crossed the line.
“A couple of the guys have let the squad down but it’s not like anyone killed anyone,” said the Kiwi-born London Irish star. “We want to focus on the rugby.”
Hape, who is rivaling Tindall for a starting spot ahead of the quarter-final against France on Saturday, did concede off-field incidents were inevitable during long trips abroad.
“A couple of incidents have happened off the field,” he said. “Some people would say they are minor. We’ve been out here for the last eight weeks, things like this are going to happen.
“I’m sure guys who have been on previous tours have done a lot worse things.”
Meanwhile, scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth insisted the negative coverage had only served to bolster team spirit ahead of a fortnight which will determine whether or not England’s World Cup campaign will be deemed a success.
“We feel like it’s harsh but that’s what brings a team together,” he said.
“We have buried it now. I think it’s the great thing about rugby that we have always been very accessible to fans and media because there has always been that mutual respect. We don’t want that to go and hopefully it won’t.
“These sorts of things only bring you closer together. Behind closed doors we are very, very close and the banter is still flying around between the lads.”
Centre Manu Tuilagi echoed Wigglesworth’s sentiments and highlighted the thriving spirit flowing throughout the England squad.
“All the things that have happened bring us tighter together as a team and sometimes bad things can be good,” he said.
“We just need to go out there, get the win and get the job done. We haven’t performed to our best yet but hopefully that will come out on Saturday.”