Any England player who believed that the World Cup was already a distant memory had better think again, This morning in New Zealand the acting RFU chief executive Martyn Thomas revealed that an investigation had been launched into their off-field activities and it could lead to fines or bans.

“Under the terms of the elite player squad agreement they can be fined in relation to their match fees, they can be fined or cautioned in relation to breaches of the player code of conduct,” said Thomas.

“I spoke to Karena Vleck, the legal officer, and she will be investigating all the allegations of misconduct off the field and she will be dealing with those over the next two weeks. She will deal with issues in relation to breach of the elite player squad agreement and indeed, in fact, in terms of the code of conduct we put in.

“The appropriate action will be taken against those players.

“It is open to discussions with Rob Andrew and the England team manager that they would not be available to England going forward as a fairly significant sanction.”

Thomas’ tough line comes as he declared that the players had “let Martin Johnson down”.

He added: ”The off-field performances have been wholly unacceptable.

“The team were together at Pennyhill Park for a considerable time before they left.

“Richard Smith QC was present, the RFU media department was present and the players were extensively counselled and coached on the implications of this tour and the conduct that was required of them was made clear to them.

“I don’t believe any individual can put their hand up and say we didn’t know what was going to happen. They were fully prepped.”

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