International Rugby Faces Image Problem

Sean KellyAnalyst IJuly 7, 2008

Thousands of young admirers of sport watch on as their chosen heroes battle it out on the field, doing the public proud as a good role model should do.

As for what they should do off the field: These professionals have a duty as a role model to lead the way and impose on children a healthy and decent way of living, rather than ending up in the press in the latest debauchery or scandal.

Football has often led the way as the worst behaved sport, with the least professional sportsmen finding their ways onto the front page of The Sun—however not for their on field glory, but rather for their off-field stupidity.

Yet I've always taken some comfort in the fact that rugby has not followed suit, with the players playing each game with their dignity in tact, rather than sprawled all over a curb outside a club with their "w.a.g".

However, rugby has progressed over the years. Since England's "World Cup glory" England have seen a huge improvement on number of children joining and playing rugby.

With these fans has come trouble, and with trouble has come consequences.

In the recent months there has been a number of stories based on the wrong-doings of professionals and has been some what of a talking point amongst fans.

Jimmy Cowan of New Zealand was arrested for the second time last week when he was charged with "disorderly behaviour". Cowan now finds himself in a sticky situation with the police and the NZRFU.

Cowan isn't the first New Zealander to find himself in a spot of bother with the police. Doug Howlett was the one caught up in the limelight for the wrong reasons after last year's World Cup.

Sione Lauaki also made the headlines, as he was arrested for assault at 5:00 am in 2006. There is actually quite a list of All Blacks to find when speaking of professional wrong-doings. Lucky Mulipola, Sitiveni Sivivatu, and Ma'a Nonu also made the New Zealand headlines.

England's latest tour to New Zealand has left a sour taste in the mouth of the RFU, after "serious allegations" were made against four players. Whether guilty or not, these allegations have seriously damaged England's dignity after that is the first thing as such to happen to the England side.

Olly Barkley was arrested on the grounds of an "alleged assault", but was recently let off the charge.

And just today Mike Tindall pleaded guilty to drunk driving, adding another player to England's list of ill-behaved professionals.

Lets not forget one of the press' favourite Rugby players. Gavin Henson last year was seen to urinate in the first class car, and refer to one of the other passengers as a "fat c***". Not the behaviour expected from a 12-year-old, let alone an internationally renowned rugby player.

As you can see from what I have pointed out, rugby is on a slippery slope, and if certain things aren't pointed out to professionals, or if certain professionals are not punished sufficiently for what they have done, rugby will easily be one of the worst behaved sports.

I can understand that being a professional you are under some what of a microscope and things you do may be elevated to a certain extent and made to sound worse, but knowing that will happen if you do wrong actions, surely you have to be more careful?

At the end of the day as a professional you have a responsibility, a responsibility to behave as a reasonable adult. Not an unreasonable idiot.