RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011: HAPE SAYS PLAYERS LET ENGLAND DOWN
Rugby World Cup 2011: England v France
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 8 October Kick-off: 0830 BST/ 2030 NZ Coverage: Scores and reports on BBC website plus live text commentaries on all home nations matches; updates on BBC Radio 5 live; watch live on ITV1 & talkSPORT radio
England players give BBC Sport's Dan Roan their reaction to criticism
England centre Shontayne Hape has played down criticism of some of his team-mates' behaviour at the World Cup but admitted certain squad members have let the side down.
Four of the squad were scrutinised for their conduct on a night out and three were reprimanded for inappropriate comments to a female hotel worker.
Hape, 30, told BBC Sport: “A couple of the guys have let the squad down but it's not like anyone killed anyone.
“We want to focus on the rugby.”
England's World Cup controversies
Hape was responding to comments from former England centre Jeremy Guscott, who accused some England players of showing a “lack of respect”.
“[Manager] Martin Johnson's got a few kids that aren't acting as though they're playing for England, or at a World Cup,” Guscott told BBC Sport on Monday. “It's beyond belief, it is staggering.”
Earlier in the tournament Johnson was forced to defend his players after they were pictured enjoying a late night in a Queenstown bar.
And three of the squad – 26-year-old James Haskell, Chris Ashton, 24 and Dylan Hartley, 25 – were reprimanded by the manager for their treatment of a female member of hotel staff in the days before England moved from Dunedin to Queenstown.
Hape's admission that certain players over-stepped the mark contrasts with the position adopted by most of his team-mates, who have generally defended each other against criticism.
England wing Mark Cueto said on Monday that the two high-profile incidents had been “blown out of all proportion”.
Players caught out by coverage – Cueto
Hape, who is competing with Mike Tindall for a starting spot at inside centre for the quarter-final against France on Saturday, said off-field incidents were inevitable during long overseas tours.
“A couple of incidents have happened off the field,” he commented. “Some people would say they are minor. We've been out here for the last eight weeks, things like this are going to happen.
“I'm sure guys who have been on previous tours have done a lot worse things.”
Scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth said criticism of their off-field behaviour was serving to strengthen the players' resolve as they gear up for the weekend's match at Eden Park.
Enough of stolen walkie-talkies, dissident mouthguards and grainy CCTV footage. With England's World Cup quarter-final closing in fast, let's clear away the side dishes and tuck into the beef: a XV that can beat France at Eden Park on Saturday night
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“We feel like it's harsh but that's what brings a team together,” he told BBC Sport.
“We have buried it now. I think it's the great thing about rugby that we have always been very accessible to fans and media because there has always been that mutual respect. We don't want that to go and hopefully it won't.
“These sorts of things only bring you closer together. Behind closed doors we are very, very close and the banter is still flying around between the lads.”
Centre Manu Tuilagi, fined on Tuesday for wearing a sponsored mouthguard, echoed Wigglesworth's comments and highlighted the spirit in the England squad.
“All the things that have happened bring us tighter together as a team and sometimes bad things can be good,” he said.
“We just need to go out there, get the win and get the job done. We haven't performed to our best yet but hopefully that will come out on Saturday.”