RUGBY’S image as a sport for hooligans played by gentlemen has taken a bit of a buffeting in recent weeks.
Broadly speaking, however, the charges levied against Wasps’ barroom brawler Andy Powell, Northampton’s Ben Foden and curfew ignoring England outcast Danny Cipriani are nothing out of the ordinary when you consider the sport’s age old association with alcohol induced escapades.
If any of that trio are to really press forward their claims for inclusion in rugby’s hall of shame, they’ll need to do better than stumbling around Australian themed west London bars spilling a few pints of claret attempting to fend off a group football fans.
That said, Powell’s unscheduled motorway cruise in a stolen golf buggy would earn marks for originality, but even the Wales back-rower can’t hold a light to the likes of Frenchman Mark Cecillon when it comes to earning the tag of rugby’s ultimate sinner.
Known as the “quiet man of French rugby” Cecillon, who captained his country on five occasions, shattered that illusion in sinister fashion when, in a fit of drunken rage, he shot his wife dead in front 60 guests at a party in Saint Savin. He is currently halfway through a 14-year jail sentence for murder.
Acts of violence carried out against other members of the human race are one thing, but an especially dishonourable mention is earned by Kiwi Andrew Hore.
The New Zealand hooker’s career was nearly ended following a court case in which he was convicted and fined for shooting and killing a protected fur seal. The Judge described the offence as a “grossly irresponsible, spontaneous act of hooliganism”. Hore and two other men were caught on a video made by a tourist firing a total of 15 shots at the defenceless animal.
Hore recovered from that ignominy and is still in contention for a place in the All Blacks’ World Cup squad. By contrast, Irishman Trevor Brennan killed his career stone dead after his astonishing Eric Cantona-esque indiscretion.
Playing for French side Toulouse in January 2007, he leapt into the stands housing the Ulster fans and struck spectator Patrick Bamford in the face. Brennan claimed he had been provoked having overheard abuse aimed at his mother.
A subsequent investigation, however, found no such abuse took place and that Brennan had been goaded over the poor quality of the bar he owned in Toulouse.
Brennan, who won 13 caps for his country, was subsequently banned for life, a punishment that was reduced to five years on appeal.