London -The England team's drunken night out during the World Cup, which could cost veteran centre Mike Tindall his Test career, was part-funded by the Rugby Football Union (RFU), according to reports here on Tuesday.WIN Beer for a Year
Several British newspapers carried an e-mail from England team operations manager Tom Stokes to the squad saying an area of Queenstown's Pub in the Wharf had been reserved for the players, including the comment "yes, there is a tab".
The latest revelations provided fresh embarrassment for the RFU, English rugby's governing body, who have been without a permanent chief executive for several months as a result of internal wrangling between various members of the Twickenham hierarchy.
England endured a shambolic World Cup campaign in New Zealand, with their quarter-final exit being overshadowed by numerous lurid tales about poor off-field behaviour.
The most high-profile concerned the evening in Queenstown where leaked security footage showed Tindall, recently married to Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter Zara Phillips, in conversation and being kissed on the head by a woman.
Last week Gloucester centre Tindall, a member of the England side captained by now team manager Martin Johnson that won the 2003 World Cup, was fined £25 000 and dropped from the elite player squad in a move that appeared to signal the end of his international career.
But the punishment inflicted upon Tindall was in marked contrast to the lack of action taken against him in New Zealand.
Johnson, who was asked to consider his position by officials following the team's quarter-final defeat by France, tried to play down the incident by saying at the time "rugby player drinks beer, shocker."
But it later emerged Tindall, who went on from the Pub on the Wharf to Queenstown's Altitude Bar, had not initially told the England management the whole story of his movements that night.
Tindall, who is appealing his fine, had led England - in the absence of the injured Lewis Moody - to a come-from-behind win in their opening World Cup group match against Argentina in Dunedin the day before the night out in Queenstown.
Former England scrumhalf Matt Dawson, in a column for the Daily Mail, labelled Tindall's fine "crazy" and said England were now the laughing stock of world Rugby Union.
"Senior figures around the world cannot believe how England have spontaneously combusted," the World Cup winner said.
"And the fine for Mike continues that trend of the past few months.
"After all, Manu Tuilagi jumped off a ferry into Auckland harbour, which endangered not only his own life but could have caused injury to others.
"But he has been fined only £3 000 while Mike has been docked this huge sum. Where's the consistency?"
"If they (the RFU) wanted to show they were in control they should have sent him home there and then."
Meanwhile, the RFU's attempts to review the World Cup campaign and the England set-up have been beset by bungling.
Former England prop Fran Cotton was asked to head up an inquiry but this was shelved when, shortly after his appointment, he gave a newspaper interview where he labelled Tindall's conduct "indefensible".
RFU Director of Rugby Operations Rob Andrew has been conducting his own review, although his own role in the England set-up is also set to be discussed at the latest meeting of England's Professional Game Board on Thursday.
The board, which includes representatives from the RFU, the Premiership clubs and England's Rugby Players' Association, will present its recommendations to the RFU board on November 30.