England have made further unwanted headlines when they suspended two

coaches for illegally swapping match balls, as the World Cup prepared

for the make-or-break last round of pool matches.

Kicking coach

Dave Alred and strength and conditioning staffer Paul Stridgeon were

reprimanded and barred from Auckland’s Eden Park stadium for Saturday’s

game against Scotland following the incident last week.

The two

admitted using different balls for conversions than the one used to

score the tries, which is against rugby rules, during England’s 67-3 win

in Dunedin against Romania. They were warned twice by referee Romain


“Two members of the team management, David Alred and Paul

Stridgeon, mistakenly thought that there was an issue with some of the

match balls,” said a statement from England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU)

on Thursday.

“Those team management members took it upon

themselves to substitute balls during the match in contravention of both

the laws of the game and the spirit of the game.

“The RFU fully

accepts that the action of those team management members was incorrect

and detrimental to the image of the tournament, the game and to English


England have had to deal with a number of untoward

incidents including stories about centre Mike Tindall, who was seen

embracing a blonde woman at a dwarf-throwing contest, just weeks after

marrying royal heir Zara Phillips.

Wilkinson insisted the latest

problem had not distracted the team from preparations to face Scotland

at Auckland’s Eden Park, where both teams can clinch a quarter-final


“You’d be surprised that it doesn’t impact upon the rugby

side of things. There’s two sides of life when you’re out here, you’re

on the field and off the field,” he told reporters earlier.