26 September 2003
By Chris Millar
London Evening Standard
A huge brawl erupted at a dinner attended by some of rugby's greatest names to raise money for former England player Alastair Hignell, who has multiple sclerosis.
Players including Gareth Chilcott, Willie-John McBride and Roger Uttley looked on in shock as dozens of guests traded blows at the £300-a-ticket dinner at Grosvenor House hotel in Park Lane.
Two guests were knocked to the floor and one, a woman, was taken to hospital by ambulance with head wounds during the fight, which only ended when police were called.
A witness said: "All hell broke out. It was a very big scrap. At least two people were laid out on the floor - one of them was a young woman.
"People were exchanging punches and there was a lot of screaming. They were mainly very well built amateur rugby types." The violence broke out when England fans taunted Welsh comedian Max Boyce as he made an after-dinner speech.
Welsh fans clashed with the England fans on a neighbouring table as those on surrounding tables tried in vain to stop it.
But the fight spiralled, hotel security guards were forced to call for police reinforcements and staff put out a call for a doctor to treat the injured. Organisers had to end the evening early, before a planned charity auction. A police spokesman confirmed they had been called to a fight at the hotel at 11.35pm on Wednesday but said that no official complaint had been made.
Event organiser Martin Krajewski said the incident was " terribly embarrassing" for the former England captain and had been caused by a "few drunkards".
Former England coach and player Uttley said: "In all my experience of
going to these dinners I have never seen anything like it."
Copyright © 2003, Associated New Media