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Last Updated:  Monday, 31 March, 2003, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
England carpeted by IRFU
Martin Johnson said the episode was a
Johnson's side claimed the side where Ireland normally line up

Irish rugby's governing body has apologised to the Republic's president after she was forced to walk on the grass instead of the traditional red carpet at Sunday's Grand Slam decider.

Before being introduced to Mary McAleese, England captain Martin Johnson refused to move his players from the left-hand side of the pitch where the Irish side customarily line up.

When the Irish ran out they therefore stood alongside England on the same side of the pitch - forcing President McAleese to cross the pitch instead of the carpet to meet them.

The Irish Rugby Football Union issued an apology to Mrs McAleese on Monday for allowing the blunder to happen at an event they were hosting.

In a statement it was confirmed that IRFU president Don Crowley had written to Mrs McAleese to apologise for the "embarrassing position" she was placed in.

The IRFU said the English team had failed to "follow established and communicated protocol".

IRFU President Dan Crowley also wrote to the Rugby Football Union to express "concern and unhappiness" that the situation had arisen.

"The RFU has indicated to the IRFU that they will be sending a letter of unreserved apology," the statement continued.

With due respect to the Irish President people don't come here to watch the presentations
Martin Johnson

England captain Martin Johnson dismissed the pre-match confusion over where his players should stand for the introductions as "a fuss about nothing".

Speaking on Sunday after his team's 42-6 victory, Johnson said nobody had explained anything about the positioning to him before the game.

"With due respect to the Irish President, people don't come here to watch the presentations," he said.

"They come here to watch a game of rugby. It's all a fuss about nothing".

A spokeswoman for President McAleese said the apology from the IRFU had been accepted.

England clinch Grand Slam
30 Mar 03 |  Photo Galleries

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