“I’d rather do that again than play against Argentina”
— James Haskell, 2011 World Cup
England had just squeezed past Argentina 13-9 in the 2011 World Cup; in what was a scrappy and unflattering performance, the English side were criticised in the media, but given a day off by the coaches in Queenstown to do as they pleased after the game.
Several players decided to go bungee-jumping; first XV starters, such as James Haskell, Nick Easter and Chris Ashton were all involved in the extreme sport, a decision which received backlash in the media due to the risk of injury for the players.
The English players received such lambasting from the public, that head coach, Martin Johnson, had to come to the players defence during the World Cup campaign:
“What they do in training is far more dangerous. It’s a long tournament and we need a balance. We’re in Queenstown and we’ve come for a reason.”
In what was a tournament marred with controversy off the pitch, as well as poor performances on it; the 2011 World Cup for England went down as a total farcical.
And now, fast forward six years, and exactly in the same place, Queenstown, a Northern Hemisphere side have followed suit by bungee-jumping ahead of what is arguably the biggest test in the Lions’ history since that test decider at Eden Park in 1993.
Engineering professor, Dr Mike Clifford, stressed of the dangers involved in the extreme sport back in 2011; yet such warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears for the players:
“There are a lot of risks associated with bungee jumping that are not well understood and have resulted in some pretty horrific injuries.
If you think about the speed that these jumpers are are going at, if they come across that rope on the way down they can break a bone in a really nasty way that could end a sports professional’s career.”
Current Lions players, Taulupe Faletau, Jack Nowell and George Kruis – who are all likely to be involved in the final test in Auckland – took part in the bungee-jumping, yet have not received the backlash the English players received in 2011.
Fortunately, none of the mentioned players were injured; but, surely the press and public should be consistent lambasting players for their off-field activities regardless of how they are performing on the pitch.