Thirteen Barbarians players have been given bans by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after breaking coronavirus rules and causing a match with England to be cancelled.
The RFU reportedly lost close to £1million in revenue and sponsorship after the match at Twickenham on October 25 was called off.
An independent disciplinary panel on Tuesday passed a range of sanctions against 13 players, who all accepted the disciplinary charges.
Chris Robshaw, Alex Lewington, Fergus McFadden, Juan Pablo Socino, Richard Wigglesworth and Jackson Wray were all given four-week bans after admitting to breaching the COVID-19 bubble and providing a false account of their whereabouts.
The players, who were also ordered to complete unpaid rugby community work, had longer initial suspensions reduced “as a result of their timely acceptance of culpability and the players’ other mitigation”. All except McFadden have been fined two weeks’ wages.
Calum Clark, Sean Maitland, Timothy Swinson, Joel Kpoku, Manu Vunipola, Thomas De Glanville and Simon Kerrod have also received bans.
The RFU said in a statement: “The total charges across 13 players are 85 weeks of match bans; 44 weeks suspended subject to conditions being met and 41 weeks of bans to be taken concurrently; players have been fined a total of 18.5 weeks salary and given a total of 630 hours of community service.
“The sanctions reflect the seriousness of the charges which include behaving in a way that ignored what the public at large and the Rugby community were complying with and deliberately compromising an investigation being carried out by the RFU as swiftly as the circumstances demanded.”
The disciplinary panel was told that, on October 20, “Robshaw, Wray and Wigglesworth left the hotel 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 players, who had not sought or been given permission to leave their hotel, were seen on CCTV using a fire escape “to avoid any confrontation”.
On October 21, 12 players left the hotel to visit Hush bar in Mayfair, The Running Horse pub and Sergio’s restaurant, despite the Barbarian management team having told Wray a visit to the latter was not permitted. The players later claimed they had gone to a McDonald’s restaurant before sitting in Berkeley Square with takeaway drinks.
During the investigation, the 12 players said in a statement: “We would like unequivocally to apologise to the Barbarians FC and the Rugby Football Union for our misguided and foolish actions on Wednesday evening. We bitterly regret our stupidity. We would like unequivocally to apologise to the RFU legal officer and lawyer for offering misleading statements during our interviews on Thursday; our basic instinct, as rugby players, is to stick together and protect each other, but, in this instance, we now realise we should have told the entire truth. As a group, together, we would now like to set down the precise sequence of events.”