Stuart Lancaster has made a point of setting the bar high when it comes to how he expects his squad to behave – both on and off the field.
Dylan Hartley and Manu Tuilagi have been excluded from the World Cup group. This is not a new policy, in 2012 Danny care was removed from the 6 Nations squad when his off field behaviour fell below the standard set down by the coach.
Danny Cipriani is in the squad – at least until his on-going case is decided. He may yet be excluded.
Before Lancaster took over there were other incidents – in 2009 Matt Stevens was banned for two years for testing positive for cocaine.
The hard line approach by Lancaster has been fully backed by the RFU, former players like Will Greenwood, Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson – and probably by most England fans too.
The tougher stance has been attributed to the well reported antics at the 2011 World Cup, although, as I have previously pointed out, other teams behaved similarly (or worse) and got away with it because their media chose not to report it.
No matter, it is what it is.
It is interesting to see, however, that both New Zealand and Australia have a less strict attitude to off field incidents.
The All Blacks squad for the game in Samoa includes George Moala who was found guilty following a nightclub brawl (admittedly in 2013) –
Today, Michael Chieka, the Wallaby coach, has confirmed that he wants to play Karmichael Hunt at fullback in the Rugby Championship.
This is the same Karmichael Hunt who earlier this year was involved in a cocaine case –
Former Wallaby Sam Scott-Young has taken issue with the Queensland Reds keeping Hunt and is worried that Australian rugby is “lowering its standards”
In an environment where junior rugby everywhere is beset with crowd problems it would seem that the Unions should have a set of standards that ensure professional players are role models for the game everywhere.
The word professional is key here, as the (understandable) obsession with commercial success is the driver for coaches and administrators above all other considerations.
In the absence of self -regulation I think it is incumbent on ‘World Rugby’ to set some standards for all unions to follow. This won’t happen, of course, and the danger of the game falling increasingly into disrepute grows every season.