England's dwarf-throwing, drink-driving, Kiwi-loving Mike Tindall. What a man. Asked last night if the press attention after his post-Argentina foray in Dunedin had bothered him: "Not really, no."
And it gets better. When curious journalists tried to get Mr Zara Phillips to talk about the pressure he’s been under on the front pages back home, boss Martin Johnson, all 6ft 7in of him, stepped in and stopped the line of questioning with some gusto before Saturday’s Group B clash against minnows Romania.
It was Sky’s experienced rugby follower Phil Edwards who had the guts to ask Tindall (that’s “shamed Tindall” according to today’s Sun in England): “Since captaining England in that opening game we’ve not heard much from you Mike, must have been a bit challenging at times.”
Tindall, deadpan, responded with all the experience a 32-year-old with a 2003 World Cup winners’ medal and 63 caps can muster: “Not really, no. I’m just disappointed I didn’t get a run out against Georgia.”
Pressed further, Tindall – who missed the last World Cup in France with a broken leg - said: “You want to play every game and I was disappointed I didn't get a run out last weekend but you work hard and hope you get picked by the coach every week. It is as simple as that."
And when Edwards, a veteran broadcaster who has covered four World Cups, asked if Tindall’s form might be affected with his wife Zara on her way to the England camp after some tears in Ireland last week, the 2003 World Cup-winning centre grinned: “I hope my own game’s fine.”
And that’s when big, bad Martin put his oar in, with a gruff: “Put it to bed mate.”
When Edwards tried to press things further, arguing that the story would run and run if questions weren’t answered, Johnson growled: “Phil, we’re looking forward to a big game against Romania. I said to you last week what happened. We had this conversation last week, we’ve played a game since then. If you’ve got any questions about that, we’re happy to answer them.
“We’ve moved on. I said what we said last week, we had a long press conference about it. We’ve all moved on.”
Back in the Sky studio, former England scrum-half and rugby analyst Dewi Morris refused to back colleague Edwards. He said: “Martin Johnson, rightly or wrongly, allowed the guys to go out for a drink.
“I think rightly. Martin has treated them as responsible adults, one or two have let them down. I don’t think there’s a story in it.”
Wales-born Morris, who played 26 times for England between 1988 and 1995, added: “As far as people going out for a drink, that’s it. We did it. We didn’t get the same publicity.
“I’m more interested in what Martin Johnson’s going to do against Romania.”
But if you’re of a certain height or are a New Zealander with breasts, it might be best not to go out in Dunedin on Saturday night. Just a thought.
What Wikipedia tells us about Michael James Tindall, MBE: On 21 December 2010 it was announced that he was engaged to Zara Phillips, the daughter of the Princess Royal, and her first husband Captain Mark Phillips. Phillips is the granddaughter of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. The wedding was held on 30 July 2011 at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh with the attendance of all senior members of the Royal Family.
Tindall has two convictions for drink driving. In 2000 he was disqualified for 16 months (a period which was in excess of the obligatory 12 month disqualification for a first offence). On 15 March 2008, following a day out at Cheltenham Racing Festival with Phillips, Tindall was stopped by Gloucestershire Police on the M4 motorway and required to take a breath test. In consequence, on 8 January 2009 he was disqualified from driving for three years and fined £500 for drink driving, with £75 costs.