Players charged over rugby's $1.8 million virus breach scandal

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·Sports Editor
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Barbarians players, pictured here breaching virus protocols.
Barbarians players were filmed out and about breaching virus protocols. Image: Twitter

Thirteen players from the Barbarians rugby side have been ordered to appear before a disciplinary hearing for a breach of coronavirus protocols.

The players’ actions forced the cancellation of last Sunday’s non-cap international against England, which cost the code around $1.8 million.

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And in a fresh development, it has emerged that some of those who broke COVID-19 regulations by going out in central London last week, provided false statements during the Rugby Football Union's investigation.

All 13 have been charged with conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game, but will remain unnamed until after proceedings have finished.

The independent hearings will be staggered over the coming weeks.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw, ex-England teammate Richard Wigglesworth and Scotland winger Sean Maitland have been identified among those whose misconduct cost the RFU in the region of $1.8 million in lost broadcast and sponsor revenue.

Among the charges are individual breaches of the protocols, such as leaving the hotel without permission or without informing organisers of their whereabouts, and providing false statements during an investigation.

The available sanctions for a disrepute charge are wide-ranging and include fines and suspensions.

“The RFU recognises the pressure public scrutiny is placing on the players and therefore it will publish players’ names, full judgements and sanctions after the hearings have concluded,” a statement read.

Footage emerges of Barbarians players’ breach

On Saturday footage emerged of Robshaw, Maitland, Jackson Wray, Joel Kpoku, Fergus McFadden and Manu Vunipola - among others - drinking at the Running Horse pub in Mayfair.

The video that was circulated on social media was from one of the two nights out, the first of which only came to light last Friday and resulted in the automatic cancellation of the annual Barbarians fixtures.

The Metropolitan Police have declined to investigate the gathering despite there appearing to be a number of coronavirus rules being broken.

Chris Robshaw, pictured here at a Barbarians training session.
Chris Robshaw (L) at a Barbarians training session. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images for Barbarians)

Five players including Robshaw and Wigglesworth have since issued apologies.

England’s World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward described the players’ conduct as “ridiculously stupid”.

RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney expressed his frustration at having to call off a match which, although meant to be played behind closed doors, would have been televised.

“We are incredibly disappointed to be calling a halt to this fixture - we know how much fans were looking forward to seeing the teams play,” he said.

“However, our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other international teams they will go up against this autumn.”

with agencies

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