Former England captain Chris Robshaw has been banned for four weeks and fined two weeks’ salary for breaching coronavirus protocols while on duty with the Barbarians.
Robshaw was among 13 Barbarians players sanctioned by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Tuesday for their actions ahead of the game against England at Twickenham on October 25, which resulted in the cancellation of the match.
England head coach Eddie Jones said that the cancellation of the annual fixture, which cost the RFU around £1million in lost revenue, had turned the game into a “laughing stock”.
Footage had emerged on social media of Barbarians players drinking in a Mayfair pub and it later transpired that some of those who broke Covid-19 regulations provided false statements during the RFU’s investigation.
All 13 players accepted the charges of conduct prejudicial to the interests of the union or the game, with the sanctions determined by the severity of the breaches.
The players were split into four groups with six – Robshaw, Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray – sanctioned for going out on both October 20 and 21 and then providing a false account about their movements on October 21.
Calum Clark, Sean Maitland and Tim Swinson were sanctioned for going out only on October 21 and then giving a false account, while Joel Kpoku, Manu Vunipola and Tom De Glanville received a shorter suspension “because of their age and their position within the group”.
Simon Kerrod was suspended for two weeks and fined a week’s wages for going out only on October 20. He did not provide a false account.
Prior to joining the Barbarians camp, the players had signed a code of conduct which stated that they should avoid any public places, with bars and pubs specifically prohibited.
On the afternoon of October, 20, Robshaw, Wray and Wigglesworth left the team hotel via a fire exit to go for takeaway drinks from the Footman pub in Mayfair and drank them outside.
Later they moved into the pub where they were joined by Lewington, Socino, McFadden and Kerrod, contrary to Tier 2 regulations then in place in London. The seven players later returned to the hotel via the fire exit.
On October 21, 12 players left the team hotel and went to Hush bar in Mayfair, The Running Horse pub and Sergio’s restaurant.
Virtual disciplinary proceedings
When initially questioned, they said had they left the hotel to eat out at McDonald’s and sat in Berkeley Square drinking takeaways.
The virtual disciplinary proceedings were conducted by an independent panel chaired by Philip Evans QC.
In total, the 13 players have been banned for 85 weeks, with 44 weeks suspended subject to conditions being met. They have also been fined a total of 18.5 weeks’ salary and ordered to undertake a total of 630 hours of community service.
In response to the judgment, Saracens released a statement which read: “The eight current Saracens players involved made some extremely poor decisions leading to actions which were foolish and serious in nature.
“The players have been punished for the mistakes that they have made and they could not be more remorseful or apologetic.
“They are absolutely devastated their misguided actions led to the cancellation of the England vs Barbarians game and caused great upset amongst rugby fans, and specifically to Saracens fans who have been incredible during such a challenging year.
“Following the incident, the Saracens players each voluntarily moved swiftly to take substantial steps by way of recompense and atonement for their actions, including contributions to help cover lost wages for casual workers at Twickenham Stadium, donations to the Matt Ratana Foundation and commitment to raise significant further funds for this charity in the months ahead.”
Saracens also stated that they had implemented their own sanctions “which are consistent with those imposed by the RFU Disciplinary Panel”.