Boozing rugby players
One for the road...
Martin Williamson
November 20, 2013
Rugby has had some 'Hellraising' tendencies which Oliver Reed would have been proud of © Getty Images

The last few weeks have featured several stories of rugby players drinking 'inappropriately' from Mike Phillips to James O'Connor to most of the Australian squad. But boozing and rugby have been bedfellows since the earliest days of the game…

Craig Gower: The Australian rugby league convert who later played for Italy lost the plot at a charity golf dinner in Queensland in 2005 when it was alleged he held a butter knife to the throat of a radio presenter, damaged a golf cart and ended the night walking naked round the coastal resort. He had previous - six years earlier he was sacked from his club for exposing himself to a tourist in Sydney. He was fined a staggering £42,000 for his night's excess.

Keith Murdoch: The giant All Black prop arrived for the 1972 tour of the UK with a fearsome reputation - he once missed a Lions tour match after falling asleep under a tarpaulin on a moored trawler, waking to find himself out at sea. After scoring the winning try against Wales, an evening of celebration ended when Murdoch went hunting for more beer and got into an altercation with a security guard who he flattened.

He might have expected a dressing down but the media seized on the incident and to the dismay of team-mates he was sent home in disgrace. He never played again and disappeared from public life, becoming an itinerant. "He has resisted all attempts to get him to any reunions," said team-mate Bryan Williams. "I don't think he's ever truly recovered."

"Once, angry with what he believed was sub-standard accommodation, he destroyed every piece of furniture in his room."

Mathieu Bastareaud: When the French centre emerged from his Wellington hotel room cut and bruised in 2009 he claimed he had been set upon by five thugs and beaten up. But against a backdrop of local outrage and a police investigation, days later he admitted he had made the whole thing up to save face.

In fact, he had drunkenly fallen over and hit his head on a table in his hotel room. He returned home in disgrace admitting he had "dug himself deeper into a hole" to try to save face. Wellington's mayor called for his head. "I'm outraged," she spluttered. "I'm sure all New Zealanders are." The French board subsequently handed him a suspended three-month ban and community service.

Doug Howlett: The All Black is another serial offender. After New Zealand's exit from the 2007 World Cup he was arrested after unwisely drowning his sorrows in a bar at the Heathrow Hilton. With team-mates, he ran up a bill of £12,500 before deciding to head outside and walk over some cars. After being arrested and bailed, he described the incident as "a little bit of tomfoolery". Four years later a Munster Christmas party ended with him being arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

The British Lions: The 1968 Lions were not the most welcome tourists and ended with the Johannesburg Sunday Times labelling them "worst-behaved team ever to tour South Africa". Among misdemeanours they once piled up some of their official blazers for a bonfire on the tarmac at Kimberley airport after an "airborne cheese and wine party".

"They have left a trail of havoc and stunned incredulity after three days in East London," snarled the Sunday Times. "Marked by severe drinking bouts, riotous behaviour at hotels and nightclubs. They left broken hotel doors, broken glasses by the dozen, unpaid liquor debts and girls in tears because of outright rudeness."

Paddy Mayne: Were he to be around now, the Irish lock would keep the tabloids occupied almost single handedly. "At first glance you would think he wouldn't harm a fly," recalled team-mate Vivian Jenkins. "We soon discovered when he got steamed up he would do anything." Although controlled on the pitch, his behaviour off it on the 1938 Lions tour to South Africa was amazing.

Blair 'Paddy' Mayne, February 11, 1939
The infamous Paddy Mayne © Getty Images

Once, angry with what he believed was sub-standard accommodation, he destroyed every piece of furniture in his room. Reprimanded by the manager, he disappeared for three days. He admitted he had got drunk with a local farmer and the pair of them then rode horses into a village dance, across the crowded floor and out again, pursued by an angry mob. For added value, with Welsh hooker Bunner Travers, he once headed to nearby docks with the sole - successful - 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.

Andy Powell: Celebrating Wales' win over Scotland in 2009 in the team hotel, in the early hours Powell got peckish. Instead of raiding the minibar he decided to take one of the hotel golf buggies and go in search of an all-night shop. He ended up driving the buggy down the hard shoulder of the M4 and was arrested by police, telling them: "Going down the M4 in a golf buggy, I'm a professional rugby player. What have I done?".

In court, his defence lawyer argued that "beer is a staple of any rugby side" and that Powell had "stayed on the hard shoulder" and "was nowhere near the buggy's top speed of 20mph". Magistrates were unimpressed and banned for drunk driving.

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