VETERAN England lock Simon Shaw fears rugby players will lose their unique and long-held rapport with supporters if their social lives are subjected to increasing media scrutiny.
The England World Cup camp, in particular newly-wed Mike Tindall, was engulfed in controversy last week after members of the public passed accounts and CCTV footage of the squad indulging in a night out to newspapers.
It thrust players’ off-field escapades firmly into the spotlight and has prompted Shaw (inset), the oldest member of the squad at 38, to voice his concerns that rugby is being dragged into the same territory as football.
“What I’ve always loved about rugby and what the spectators love is that they can gain access to players. The more issues there are, the less access supporters will have because players will hide away. Without a doubt that will be detrimental to the game,” Shaw said yesterday, ahead of Saturday’s third Pool B match against Romania.
“I truly hope that doesn’t happen but I fear it probably will. Individuals have become a lot more high-profile and have taken the game to a different plane. There’s almost no stopping that. There are more mobile phone cameras and the attention is bigger than ever. It increases the element of people trying to make a buck and making a story of it. It very much saddens me.” Attention returns to matters on the field this weekend, and Shaw believes Romania represent ideal opponents as England look to deliver the efficiency and ruthlessness that manager Martin Johnson feels has been missing.
“It’s a perfect game to have. They’ll be tough up front like the Georgians but I think there will be opportunities to score tries. Last week we weren’t patient enough,” the Wasps front-row added.
“We’re obviously striving to reproduce what we were in the early part of the Six Nations but it’s not all about winning the World Cup today.
“We’re making steps, albeit we’re a little bit behind where we want to be. We’ve been able to tough games out in the past and I’m sure we’ll be able to do it again.”