Just when England need to know they have the public support in their bid to reach a third straight Rugby World Cup Final the media are at it again passing moral judgement on the national team.

Any benefit the players may have enjoyed by having a well-deserved night off drinking in the company of pretty women at a Queenstown nightclub has been negated by the prying eyes and damaging words of the media commentators who flirting by England captain. The media would rather give us sensational headlines than see our boys bring the Webb Ellis Trophy home from New Zealand.

Granted it was manor from heaven for the headline writers. As Robert Kitson wrote in The Guardian: ‘Stick the following words together in any order – England captain, blonde, royal family, boobs, dwarf-throwing – and you have all the ingredients for global tabloid nirvana.’

Mike Tindall, who skippered the previous day’s opening win against Argentina, may have been guilty of some public flirting and stealing a cheeky kiss from some anonymous bird in a bar. The media over-reaction will embarrass his Royal wife Zara Phillips so soon after their wedding. But it is the unrestrained glee at the way the media report the story and pass sanctimonious judgment that I find so distasteful.

Any true rugby fan would not have batted an eyelid to see the players let their hair down in full view of the public and most would have delighted in the madcap humour at a bar hosting a ‘Mad Midget Weekender’ that generated the hilarious photos seen on the social media network.

The truth is no harm was done. This was just a good old-fashioned boys night out. Are we really saying that rugby players on tour must act like monks on pilgrimage to some holy land! Let’s get real. These guys will give blood sweat and tears on the field of play – and only if we can look back at the end of the tournament and say they were badly prepared and failed to deliver their potential have we any right to criticise. And even then I would suggest we are guilty of living in a blame culture that so often stifles real talent.

It is usually our football stars who find their every move under the full glare of the media spotlight at major tournaments. And there is no doubt in my mind that the added pressure of intolerable scrutiny and character assassinations contributes to ultimate failure.

Whether or not our rugby players can cope with this extraordinary level of expectation and public condemnation remains to be seen. But you can sense the full scale of England coach Martin Johnson’s frustration that his meticulous preparation is being undermined by the media.

In my humble opinion, Johnson – England’s 2003 World Cup winning skipper, let’s not forget – summed up the situation perfectly when he declared: “It was guys out having a few drinks, as other teams have done in the same town during the World Cup.

“There is no difference it is just the way it has been reported. Rugby player drinks beer, shocker.”

Rich Deane, the manager at the Altitude Bar where England’s players had their fun, tried to put things into perspective when he said via email that the players had been perfectly well behaved and pointing out that the dwarf event had been misinterpreted. “Firstly there was no dwarf throwing – that’s just not cool!” he wrote. “Secondly there was no scandal by any of the English rugby players that we saw. They were great lads, not throwing the midgets, it was all light-hearted good humoured fun! This is the tabloids taking photos out of context and telling silly stories.

This is how The Sun gleefully splashed their exclusive:

NEWLWED England rugby captain Mike Tindall kissed and groped a blonde beauty in a nightspot while watching a DWARF-THROWING contest with pals.

Tindall, 30, who wed royal Zara Phillips six weeks earlier, was also seen with his face pressed to the girl’s cleavage on a boozy night off during the World Cup in New Zealand.

England rugby aces piled on top of each other in an impromptu scrum — on a boozy night out that saw a gorgeous blonde pull skipper Mike Tindall’s head into her boobs.

Several of the nation’s top stars flocked to a bar in New Zealand to celebrate victory in their opening World Cup match.

Scores of women made a beeline for the strapping lads as they relaxed by watching a light-hearted dwarf-throwing competition.

And when the fair-haired beauty flung herself at him, Tindall found himself unable to resist.

He was seen kissing and groping the girl, who also rubbed his face into her breasts after downing a string of shots at the bar on Sunday.

16 September 2011:
According to the Press Association, ‘The woman seen on CCTV kissing and hugging Mike Tindall is an “old friend” of the England rugby captain and his royal bride, sources have insisted.’

Mad Midget Weekender was just a bit of fun – the photos