'Ridiculously stupid': 13 Baa-Baas charged over COVID breaches

International
AAP
by AAP

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 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.

Chris Robshaw, his former England teammate Richard Wigglesworth and Scotland wing Sean Maitland are among those whose misconduct has cost the RFU in the region of Stg1 million ($A1.8 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.

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On Saturday footage emerged of Robshaw, Sean 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.

Five players including Robshaw and Wigglesworth have since issued apologies, while England's World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward described the players' conduct as "ridiculously stupid".

The cancellation of the game made rugby a laughing stock, England coach Eddie Jones said.

"We understand that rugby at the moment is a bit of a laughing stock," Jones told a remote news conference, after naming his team for Saturday's Six Nations match against Italy.

"We want to make sure we put the game back where it needs to be.

"We have a great game in rugby and we don't like to see it be portrayed as something that is not a serious sport, as it has been.

"It's been a difficult time for society. People have lost their jobs, people have lost family members, so we feel absolutely privileged to play and our responsibility is to put a smile on people's faces.

"The players have approached this camp with a zest for the game that I have never seen before."