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The baddest of rugby's bad boys

ESPN staff
October 3, 2013
Paddy Mayne - on tour he used to head to the nearest docks with the aim of picking a fight © Getty Images

Are the much-publicised antics of the likes of Gavin Henson, Danny Cipriani and James O'Connor a product of professionalism or have rugby players always behaved badly? Larry Medland, Penge

Rugby is actually far more disciplined since it turned professional, the difference being that the all-invasive media - traditional and social - now picks up on misdemeanours with glee. When players were amateurs they had more scope for high jinks and drinking; closer relationships with reporters meant that what went on tour usually did stay on tour.

A few incidents still saw the light of day - in 1982 Colin Smart was hospitalised after drinking a bottle of aftershave during a post-match banquet (in his defence he thought it was alcohol).

As far back as 1894 a group from New South Wales, playing in New Zealand, got so drunk they were asked to leave an official function and proceeded to abuse any hapless passer-by outside the venue.

During the Lions tour to South Africa in 1974, Willie John McBride recalled standing in his underpants, pipe in mouth, in a wrecked hotel foyer with a dozen Lions "out of their tree". Confronted by the hotel manager - dripping wet after being soaked following a previous attempted intervention when he tried to prevent the fire extinguishers being set off - McBride asked: "What seems to be the problem?" Later that night a player's bed was thrown out of a window.

The 1968 Lions held an impromptu bonfire on the tarmac at Kimberley airport after what was politely described as an "airborne cheese and wine party"

But perhaps the baddest of them all, and someone who would have kept the tabloids happy for months, was Irish lock Paddy Mayne. On the 1938 Lions tour of South Africa he delighted in crashing into team-mates' rooms in the middle of the night and destroying their furniture. For added value, with Welsh hooker Bunner Travers, he used to head to the docks with the sole intention on picking a fight. His tour ended when he returned to the hotel with a dead antelope over his shoulder after going hunting in the early hours.

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