The Twitter Apology

With all this new-fangled social media carry-on, the latest fad among rugby players is to take to twitter to publicly apologise to afflicted players for acts of foul play. Two recent proponents have been Pascal Pape, who took to the twitter machine to apologise to Jamie Heaslip for his knee in the back incident, and Ashley Johnson of Wasps, who performed a similar act of manly contrition after he took Dave Kearney out in the air in the ERCC a few weeks ago.

It’s all a bit glib for our tastes, frankly. If Pascal Pape is indeed sorry for his actions, he should say it directly to Jamie Heaslip, rather than taking to public fora to do so. It’s all very well publically showing yourself to be a jolly good fellow but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s all a bit of PR spin, and something the lawyers can point to in the disciplinary hearing to get a more lenient sentence. Who’s to say their coaches didn’t tell them to do it? As it happens, Pape’s ‘remorse’ got his ban reduced from 15 to 10 weeks. One thing that couldn’t have been in Pape’s favour is his disciplinary record, which stands at 28 career yellow cards and two reds. Nice going.

It also forces the hand of the injured party to be seen to be equally manly, and accept the apology in a display of solidarity in the name of rugger, or risk being seen to be a prancing prima donna better suited to roundball. Far better to appear gracious than get into some sort of unedifying spat. ‘No problems, old chap, it’s a physical game and these things happen’, replied Jamie Heaslip, or words to that effect. What he probably would have liked to say was ‘Listen here Pascal, I’m out of the Six Nations with three fractured vertebrae, so thanks for that. It’s a physical enough game as it is without deliberately kneeing other players in the back. Next time you’re entering a maul, try to keep the old knees down a bit so as to cause fewer spinal injuries.’

Those who appear to get the most out of these risible stunts are certain fans, who instantly get all excited and quickly begin to applaud everyone involved, and rejoice at the sheer manliness and jolly-hockeysticks bravado of it all. How noble of Pape! How gracious of Heaslip! How manly these chaps are! Truly, rugger is the king of sports, where you can break a chap’s back and all is forgiven because it’s all in such great spirit! But really, it’s little more than self-satisfaction; the reality is they’re patting themselves on the back for the magnificent act of being a fan of such a ruddy great sport. After all, this sort of boys-will-be-boys mateyness would never happen with soccer players, the filthy oiks!  Truly, they lack the appopriate levels of manliness!

But if people want to celebrate this most noble spirit of egregious foul play followed by easy apology-making, count us out. Leave it to the citing commissioners to dole out the punishments, and if there are apologies to be made, keep them private, rather than looking for kudos from the public.



  1. I was having this very same argument with a mate at the Leinster game on Friday night – I’m completely in your camp.

    If Pape was truly sorry he could have made a very small effort to get Heaslip’s number, or hell even send him a private DM via Twitter to apologise. Doing it publicly really does smack of, ah sure look he’s a nice lad really and everyone knows he’s said sorry so let’s reduce his punishment. Maybe it is genuine, but it really does smell of legal advice…

  2. Spot on!!! No kudos for adding insult to injury.

  3. Rocky

     /  February 23, 2015

    Agree with all you say about this. I think there is a wider issue, which you sort of referred to as well. It is simply the number of serious injuries happening now. For those who cause serious injuries to other players by foul means, I think the sentences should be much more draconian and Pape should be out at least until next season starts. Not only that but could there also be a mechanism to hit the offender where it really hurts – in the pocket – with fines going to fund research into important aspects of rugby injury.
    The other issue is that rugby is getting far more dangerous because of the way the laws are currently set up and enforced. The IRB or World Rugby need to have a long hard look at things like jumping to catch the ball, tackling above the waist, players leading with the forearm (have seen a lot of that recently and M Bastauraud is a big offender) as well as the whole ruck area – cleaning out well past the ruck, taking out players not joined to it, players diving in – Jacques Burger is an incredibly dangerous player in that respect.
    Basically, we need to find ways to make the game much safer for the players or I really fear for the future.

  4. I wrote a thing about this around the time of the Neil Francis “apology” & I think apologies only work, or count or what have you, if they’re genuine. I truly despise the “I’m sorry you feel that way” school. Either take responsibility or STFU. Shit apologies take the heat off the wrong-doing & put pressure on the injured, in this case literally, party to be magnanimous. Part of me wishes Heaslip had told him to go jump but that was obviously never going to happen. I’m also not going to give plaudits for apologising when you’re clearly in the wrong. It’s the absolute least you can do and if you’re going to do it, do it better

  5. Shelflife

     /  February 23, 2015

    Of course hes sorry, sorry he was caught !!
    Agree with you 100% and hate that punishments are reduced by 50% because they showed remorse and they behaved themselves in the meeting.
    Thuggery and cheap shots should feel the full force of the disciplinary procedures.

  6. D6W

     /  February 23, 2015

    Could not agree more! It is a ridiculous precedent to set. Now we will have yellow carded players whipping out their phones before their bum hits the seat to get their twitter apology out there to stave off any citing commissioner or subsequent harsh sentence.

    On another note, Shane Jennings retirement. Always thought 13 caps was a meager return for such a talented and dogged player, although accept there was serious competition.

    • aoifehamill

       /  February 23, 2015

      I think he may have fallen out with Kidney when at Leinster the first time…

      • Yossarian

         /  February 23, 2015

        massive jennings fan but David Wallace followed by Sean O’Brien didn’t give him many opportunities to play. That and Ireland not really valuing an out and out 7. He couldn’t really switch over to 6 or play anywhere else which also limited him as a bench option.

        • curates_egg

           /  February 23, 2015

          Taking over where Gleeson left off.

          • mohill11

             /  February 24, 2015

            Jennings not in Gleeson’s class as an openside. In fact Johnny O’Connor was a better 7 than Jennings IMHO.

  7. @CompleteBore

     /  February 23, 2015

    I’m trying to teach my 2-year old the basics of right and wrong (you know, not slapping me in the face when I tell him he can’t have chocolate for breakfast, that kind of thing). The path of least resistance is for him to mumble a quick ‘sooorrrry’ as he gets off his naughty step but I have to try and drag out of him what he did wrong and what to do the next time. He’s getting there, slowly at times, but he is getting there.

    The rote twitter apology is the modern public figure’s equivalent of the begrudged ‘sooorrry’ – if it has no impact on future behaviour it is pointless.

    • stephen

       /  February 23, 2015

      “When I tell him he can’t have chocolate for breakfast” – you heartless b*****d.

  8. In thorough agreement with this. Here’s Rynard Landman’s apology for the elbow to the head of the Connacht out half:

    “I am ashamed of my decision today! I let myself my club and most of all my team down! This is not what I stand for!”

    Yeah, because after an act of brutality like that, it’s your decision making that should be questioned…

    • Though, this is probably less of an apology than it is an ‘admission of wrongdoing’ (perhaps he even did apologise in private).

      • SportingBench

         /  February 24, 2015

        I think that is more the point. A public admission of guilt saves the citing commission time and therefore has to be rewarded to some extent. Agree with the article though all this public apology nonsense is annoying. I reckon Heaslip should have just ignored Pape’s tweet.

  9. Derek

     /  February 23, 2015

    Excellent, hits the nail square on the head.

  10. Brendan McGrath

     /  February 23, 2015

    Whiff, not just Pape and Johnson – that Dragons lunatic who tried to take Jack Carty’s head off in the Connacht-Dragons game yesterday was up the same crack – straight onto Twitter saying how sorry he was blah de blah. Luckily Carty was not hurt by what was a real cheap shot elbow to the head from behind.

  11. andrew097

     /  February 23, 2015

    Welcome to social media folks in case you had not noticed. Its about spouting out opinion and sharing your thoughts with the World, God Bless. Everything from what I had for breakfast to “the Spreys front row goes down quicker then a girl outside a chip shop in Swansea on a Saturday night”, sort of post.

    Pape and other players are fine with saying they are sorry on their social media. Most likely they do want to make a public acknowledgement of contrition, rather then just a cynical act of trying to avoid a ban. I think anybody who has played rugby has tried to hurt somebody but normally with in the laws ie bust some bloke or girl with a big hit. But, and I mean but, you would be horrified if the hurt was actually too bad ie broken bones or serious injury. We have all got hurt playing rugby. We have all shipped big tackles and pretended we were fine. We have all made poor judgements and sometimes even have lashed out. Social media is as good a place as any to say sorry. I do hope though that Pape also made that personal call because he could and that would be the right thing to do publically and privately

  12. Whenever I see apologies like this, I always think of THAT Tiger Woods press conference

    • LOL!!!!!! That reminds me of something: whatever happened to the nickname “Ron Jeremy” for Zebo?

      • curates_egg

         /  February 23, 2015

        It’s mine (c) and it’s alive and well.
        Jeremy is my MIP of the campaign so far. Finally doing all the nuts and bolts and the only player with any guile in the backline. He’s the Trimble of last year, with added x (cringe, Thornleyitis).
        Would love to see what he could be doing outside a centre combo of Henshaw-Fitzgerald. Based on the current PR campaign around Payne (the outstanding fullback come mediocre centre), it seems I will have to wait until the summer for a whiff of that.

  13. Will

     /  February 23, 2015

    Why is there time off for being sorry? You’d want to be really thick not to be. It pretty much means that everyone bar Delon Armitage will get a reduced ban. How about an increase in the ban length of you don’t apologise at the citing hearing?
    I also hope Wayne Barnes is getting some sort of telling off. He should also be sorry.

    • Fergal

       /  February 23, 2015

      WAyne Barnes: is there any feedback process? He had a really bad day. Does he get dropped for future games?

  14. Langball

     /  February 23, 2015

    Between this article and the one giving out about the scrums, I’m beginning to think you two are nancy boy backs…

  15. Agree wholeheartedly here with the sentiment expressed in the main body of the article and the comments- would’ve loved Jamie Heaslip to have told Pape where to shove his apology but I recall BOD doing the same post-Speargate (This reporter suggested “Waitergate”, but was howled down at the press club) and being tarred as a “whinger” in the Southern Hemisphere who “couldn’t let it go” (“it” being the fact that he narrowly avoided paralysis by sheer chance).
    Also, I really hate rugby fans trying to have a dig at football whenever they have the chance- I really enjoy and have played or play both sports equally; they both have their faults and things that could be improved but I am sick of one code having a go at the other whenever something good/ bad happens in the respective sports. A lot of times it’s people showing their social prejudices in an “acceptable” way but I’d take umbrage at being labelled either an “oik” or a “toff”.
    P.S. Jenno- legend

  16. Buzz

     /  February 23, 2015

    Excellent piece.

    I don’t really understand it though as I don’t have Twatter or BookFace or Instamatic or anything else like that…..

    I do, however, have time to do lots of other things. Such as going outside.

  17. Punk Anderson

     /  February 23, 2015

    Whiff, great piece. Especially, regarding the self-righteousness of certain fans. I am also a big follower of ice hockey, where some fans have issues with the sport “not being fully appreciated” by others. When someone re-tweets the obligatory apology from the offending player or the league’s punishment for violent conduct, it is often referred to derisively as a “Please Like My Sport” tweet.

  18. Mike

     /  February 24, 2015

    The fact that the whole thing is in French tells us a lot about both of them.

    Piss poor effort from Pape not to at least try and use google translate, and Jamie seemed way too keen to respond in French. Either he wants us to know how sophisticated he is or for the French clubs to know he’d fit right in…

  19. Heaslip said he had spoken to him in person (or maybe over the phone) as well. This article is taking a faulty premise and running with it.

    • See here:

      Just because neither of them held a press conference to let the world know they spoke, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

      As an aside, I do think it was intentional and he deserves his ban.

    • Ok, maybe faulty premise is a bit strong. I suppose the twitter side of the apology is still for public consumption/ban reduction. All the same, he did have the decency to talk to him via some other means as well, not just for show.

      • If he spoke to him in person then why bother with apologising again on Twitter. Changes nothing as far as I’m concerned, the twitter apology is still a risible stunt designed for mass consumption. In fact, you could argue that having already apologised in person makes the act even more cynical. Faulty premise my eye!

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