Rugby World Cup 2011

Ashton defends drinking spree

2011-09-17 10:53
Chris Ashton (AFP)

Dunedin - England wing Chris Ashton has insisted he and his team-mates "weren't doing anything out of the ordinary" when they went drinking in a bar where dwarves provided the entertainment.

Ashton was among a group of England players photographed in Queenstown's Altitude Bar on Sunday as they relaxed after Saturday's tournament-opening 13-9 win over Argentina.

Video footage from a security camera in the bar appeared to show an unidentified woman kissing veteran centre Mike Tindall, England's captain against the Pumas, on the top of his head.

England manager Martin Johnson, who before the Rugby World Cup had insisted he would not be imposing a drinking ban, had approved the players' decision to go out and "have a few beers" as a way of strengthening squad-bonding.

Northampton wing Ashton, while accepting the players might have been naive, insisted nothing untoward had happened.

"We weren't doing anything out of the ordinary.

"There were dwarves there, yes, but that was just the night the bar was having. It was nothing to do with us. We didn't bring them with us or anything like that.

"We just ended up in there. I don't think anything had been organised or anything like that. It was just a bar that we ended up in.

"It's just lads enjoying a night out. We just don't see anything in it and we're concentrating on this weekend."

However, he added: "We just need to tighten it up a bit. There's a lot of people, not out to get you, but out to put a spin on things and if you're having a night out with the lads you can make whatever you want with it.

"You can have a picture with fans and if it happens to be girls, you can make whatever you want of it.

"We just have to watch out and be a bit more careful about what we're doing and how we go about it."

Ashton though said the fall-out from the incident, which saw Tindall, who recently married Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, making unwanted headlines on both sides of the Equator, would strengthen team spirit ahead of Sunday's Pool B clash against Georgia in Dunedin.

"It's just brought us a bit more together and made us realise the effect the World Cup has on the team," Ashton said. "If anything, it's brought us closer together and tighter as a group of people."


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