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England trio refused RFU advice to pay off Dunedin hotel maid

James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley were allegedly advised to pay Annabel Newton NZ$30,000 in “hush money”.

Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

THREE ENGLISH RUGBY stars were allegedly advised to pay off a New Zealand hotel worker to stop her from going public with damaging accusations of sexual harassment.

James Haskell, Chris Ashton and Dylan Hartley made headlines at the Rugby World Cup when Annabel Newton, 23, accused the trio of verbally harassing her in the team’s Dunedin hotel.

Although a local police investigation dismissed Newton’s complaint, all three players were made to apologise for their behaviour by team manager Martin Johnson.

But the Times (subscription only) reports this morning that at least one of the three felt pressured into handing over NZ$30,000 (€16,500) to Newton to stop her from selling her story to the media.

The unnamed player’s revelation was made in the confidential ‘Twickileaks’ reviews of England’s failed campaign.

Two days before the Scotland game, WC says, “You’ve got 24 hours to decide whether to settle with the girl for NZ$30,000 or not”. Paying the money seemed to be the advice. Another option wasn’t really given.

The anonymous player says that they rejected the RFU’s advice “because we hadn’t done what she claimed we had done.” The union later agreed to pay Newton’s legal costs as a goodwill gesture.

Haskell and Ashton were both hit with suspended fines of £5,000 by the RFU on their return home. Hartley was cleared of any inappropriate behaviour.

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Niall Kelly

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