English Rugby
RPA applauds Lancaster's Care stance
ESPNscrum Staff
January 6, 2012
England scrum-half Danny Care dives over, England v Italy, Six Nations, Twickenham, London, England, February 12, 2011
Danny Care will miss the 2012 Six Nations after his latest brush with the law © Getty Images

The Rugby Players' Association (RPA) has praised Stuart Lancaster's hard stance over Danny Care's latest indiscretion and has revealed that they will step up their alcohol and drug awareness programmes.

Lancaster booted Care out of the Six Nations squad following his drink-driving charge and Damian Hopley - the CEO of the RPA - believes the England management have set the right precedent to the rest of the game. Following a scandal-filled year for English rugby, which included a torrid World Cup campaign and the subsequent leaked reports, Lancaster has been making all the right noises about restoring England's damaged reputation.

And Hopley believes taking a hard stance on indiscretions such as Care's is the correct path to take while also emphasising that the individuals should be helped and not made to look scapegoats. "It was a severe punishment handed down by Stuart [Lancaster] but it was a severe crime," Hopley told the Daily Telegraph. "He has set the tone for his regime and I'm sure that the message will get through to everyone.

"Players need that rigour of protocol, they need to know where they stand. But Stuart is the type to put an arm round players, too, and not hang them out to dry as happened in the dark days towards the end of last year. That was an unsavoury time.

"It's so important to strike the right balance in these matters. These are young men and incidents will occur. They do need education, as well as back-up, and we'll be looking to roll out those programmes that we put in place in the wake of the incidents that occurred three years ago, at Bath for example."

Bath were hit by a series of allegations over drug-taking back in 2008 but Hopley is keen to emphasise that the majority of the players in the Aviva Premiership are well behaved and lead largely anonymous lives - something which has been overshadowed by the high profile events in 2011.

"No, I don't believe that there are any deep-rooted issues with alcohol but I have to say that it's notable in this Olympic year that the outstanding athletes in cycling or rowing or track and field don't drink," Hopley said. "Our players oughtn't to be pushed into becoming hermits but they do have to understand that there's a bigger picture in play these days.

"The eyes of the sporting world are on our guys and this latest incident [with Care] can only reinforce the need to behave appropriately. For the most part, they do. But we can't be complacent.

"Players are in the spotlight like never before. We've banged the drum for years about the need for player education programmes and we'll keep doing that. What happened in the World Cup made us all sit up and take notice. You can see from the strength of feeling expressed by fans as to what went on in New Zealand that they believe that everything in the garden is not rosy, and that's because it isn't.

"The image of the game was damaged, and we have to recognise that. We've got to provide the resources and tools for these young men to move forward. That's what we'll be focusing on, lending them the right sort of support for the benefit of everyone."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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