England's RFU tried to buy maid's silence
England’s embattled Rugby Football Union (RFU) tried to buy the silence of a New Zealand chambermaid following allegations of sexual harassment during the World Cup, The Times reported on Friday.
The newspaper quoted a confidential Rugby Players’ Association report into the incident in a hotel in Dunedin and alleged the woman concerned had been offered 30,000 New Zealand dollars ($22,000) to keep quiet after James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were accused of verbal sexual harassment.
A player quoted anonymously in the report said the players were told: “You’ve got 24 hours to decide whether to settle with the girl for NZ$30,000 or not. Paying the money seemed to be the advice. Another option wasn’t really given.
“We refused to pay because we hadn’t done what she claimed we had done. So we went to find our own lawyers in New Zealand because we felt the RFU QC was interested in defending the RFU’s reputation rather than ours.”
The players said they had made an inappropriate joke but nothing more serious.
The maid’s story later appeared in a Sunday newspaper, sparking a storm that saw Haskell and Ashton given a warning and fined £5,000 ($7,740) by the RFU. Hartley was exonerated.
The chambermaid, Annabel Newton, said the incident had left her traumatised but camera footage taken by Haskell showed her smiling and police found there was no case to answer following an investigation.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that former All Black and ex-Italy coach John Kirwan had indicated it would be an “honour” to succeed Martin Johnson as England team manager, at least on a temporary basis.
“It would be an honour for me to coach the English side. I think it would be a fantastic job,” the paper quoted Kirwan as saying.
“The team is really exciting. I’m a head coach but I specialise in attack and unleashing the England attack would be something really exciting.”
He added that the current RFU turmoil would not put him off.
“There’s always ups and downs,” he said.
“For me as the head coach, you need to understand and have a working relationship with the people above you but the main job is to make sure everything is functioning underneath you and the team is performing to the best of its ability.
“What happens above me should not affect the players. I don’t want to criticise what’s gone before me; I’ve lots of respect for Martin — winning the Six Nations last year they played some really good footie.
“But Chris Ashton, Ben Foden, Toby Flood — as an attack coach, that sort of calibre of player really excites me.
“You could really unleash those guys. For me to move a team like that forward would be a really big challenge.”