Chris Robshaw last night said sorry for his part in the Covid breach which has forced the cancellation of tomorrow’s England-Barbarians clash.
The former Red Rose captain was one of 12 Barbarians players to provoke fury at the Rugby Football Union with actions which rob the cash-strapped governing body of a vital pay day.
The RFU, faced with a £60 million ‘pandemic’ black hole which has already brought mass job cuts at Twickenham, could ill-afford to lose a further £1 million in television and sponsorship revenue.
Yet they were left with no choice but to pull the plug after a dozen Covidiots dined out at a London restaurant – one of two separate breaches in which players left the Barbarians bubble without permission.
Robshaw expressed his “deepest apologies” to the Baa-Baas, Eddie Jones’ England and the entire “rugby family” for letting them down.
He added: ”A huge effort went into conducting this match in a safe fashion and it was irresponsible of me to break the protocols which are put in place to protect players, staff and the public.
“I understand that my actions have ultimately contributed to the cancellation of Sunday’s match and I am sincerely remorseful for my role in undoing all the amazing work that went into trying to make it happen.
“I promise that I will learn from this mistake and ensure something like this never happens again.”
Saracens’ trio Richard Wigglesworth, Jackson Wray and Joel Kpoku also issued heartfelt apologies, with their club venting “extreme” displeasure at their players involved.
Tomorrow’s game should have been England’s first for seven months and an important run-out ahead of next week’s Six Nations decider with Italy in Rome.
Even allowing for diplomatic language, RFU boss Bill Sweeney’s anger at the catastrophic chain of events was plain.
He raged: ”We are incredibly disappointed to be calling a halt to this fixture, we know how much the fans were looking forward to seeing the teams play.
“However our priority is to protect the health and safety of the England squad and the other international teams they will go up against this autumn.
“There has been a great deal of effort put into Covid codes of conduct and planning for games, including cooperation with Premiership clubs to release additional players to fulfil the fixture safely.
“We are all incredibly frustrated and disappointed that the actions of a number of Barbarians players mean we no longer feel it is safe for the game to go ahead.”
This is unlikely to be the end of the matter as the RFU’s investigation is “ongoing” and the miscreants face a possible disrepute charge.