RFU charge 13 Barbarians players following Covid-19 protocol breaches

Players will not be named until independent hearings have finished

Photograph:  David Davies/PA Wire

Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire

 

Thirteen Barbarians players must appear before a disciplinary hearing for a breach of coronavirus protocols that forced the cancellation of last Sunday’s non-cap international against England.

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 English 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 with the independent hearings to be staggered over the coming weeks.

Former England captain Chris Robshaw and former Ireland winger Fergus McFadden are among those whose misconduct has cost the RFU in the region of £1million 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.

On Saturday footage emerged of Robshaw, McFadden, Sean Maitland, Jackson Wray, Joel Kpoku 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.

Five players including Robshaw and McFadden have since issued apologies, while England’s World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward described the players’ conduct as “ridiculously stupid”.

It comes at a time when the RFU is battling a financial crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in 140 people being made redundant amid a predicted £60million loss in revenue from autumn and 2021 Six Nations matches being played behind closed doors.

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