Lions tour manager John Spencer became the target of a drunken New Zealand fan’s verbal abuse and physical intimidation in an Auckland restaurant on Thursday.
Spencer, who represented the Lions as a player in the victorious 1971 tour, was dining with his family and friend at Depot, which is a popular inner city eatery when the incident occurred.
Spencer, who is also the England RFU’s senior vice-president, was not dressed in Lions official kit, but his friend was wearing a Lions shirt and nearby diners became aware of the presence of a senior member of the Lions management.
Multiple reports allege that that one fan requested to take a photograph, but then another New Zealand diner described as being “quite drunk” – became aggressive and shouted foul language at Spencer and began to shove the 69-year-old.
Spencer was able to push the man away and asked to have some space to enjoy his meal with his companions. The restaurant staff did not take any action during the incident, although there is no indication that the way they dealt with the matter was inappropriate or inadequate.
No complaint has been lodged by the Lions as their minds must be firmly fixed on their preparations for the first test at Eden Park on Saturday. However, incidents like this will disappoint their hosts and the touring squad as it taints a tour which has on the whole been incident and scandal free.
However, as the force of the Lions’ challenge has risen game by game, the tension amongst both sets of fans has escalated and there have been a few other minor incidents which have unsettled the Lions squad.
The oyster bar and restaurant which was the scene of the drama has the following description on their website: ‘There’s an energy and passion about Depot’ and their management has so far clammed up about the incident on social media.
In the latest edition of the Oval Office rugby podcast, we discuss the Lions team for the opening Test with Will Greenwood, and we hear from one of the players in that team, Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong.
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