Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Johnson's Regret over 'Ballgate'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Johnson's Regret over 'Ballgate'

Article excerpt

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson yesterday accepted responsibility for the Rugby World Cup 'Ballgate' scandal which has seen two of his management team suspended.

Johnson confirmed he was involved in the decision to ban Jonny Wilkinson's kicking mentor Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon from this morning''s decisive Pool B showdown with Scotland.

The two coaches illegally switched the ball Wilkinson was due to kick conversions with on a number of occasions during the first half of England's 67-3 victory over Romania. The Rugby Football Union were forced to act after England became the subject of a misconduct investigation by Rugby World Cup Limited (RWCL).

Johnson and Wilkinson avoided having to answer any official questions from RWCL on their own involvement, or lack of, after tournament organisers accepted England's action and chose not to launch a further investigation.

Alred and Stridgeon helped put the England squad through their final paces at Eden Park yesterday - but both are banned from the stadium today.

"I am responsible for everything that happens here," Johnson said. "Of course the RFU are involved as well but it was also my say (to implement the bans).

"Paul and David did what they did in the heat and confusion of a Test match. I don't suspend guys lightly. We regret what we did and it was wrong.

"In the heat of a World Cup match these guys have made a mistake and they had paid for it.

"We should have asked the referee (if they could switch balls), we didn't. They asked us to stop, we did. Paul is gutted by this, getting something wrong. He is upset by it, as is Dave. When you come to a World Cup you don't expect it to be a smooth ride. These things happen in tournaments and you just get on with it." And getting TAKING BLAME Martin Johnson on with it will mean England beating Scotland in Auckland today, topping Pool B and booking a quarter-final with France. …

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