Scottish Rugby coach Vern Cotter ‘ordered stunned players to kill rabbits in training weekend’

Extraordinary claims have been made that the Scottish National Rugby team were made to hunt and kill rabbits to toughen them up.

A former player spoke out against head coach Vern Cotter, who allegedly ordered players to kill the wild animals with their bare hands during a training exercise.

Jim Hamilton, who attended the camp in France last June before the Rugby World Cup spoke of his shock at being ordered to batter with wild rabbits to death.

He claims Cotter picked on teammate Richie Gray, who did not want to take part in the slaughter.

Animal rights campaigners last night hit out at the unnecessary cruelty, with Elisa Allen, the UK director of PETA saying: “Turning rugby players into killers won’t improve their game, and to call it ‘unsporting’ is an understatement.

“Crushing the skulls of rabbits and slitting their throats are terrifying and agonising ways to kill these sensitive, intelligent animals, and such violent acts may be illegal in France, where this cruelty allegedly occurred.

“PETA is calling on authorities to investigate and also asking the rugby league to take immediate action to put a stop to any further ‘training’ with animals.”

Jim Hamilton said the event took place during a training camp

Recalling the events on the Rugby Pod podcast, Hamilton said: “Vern was sitting there in full outdoor hunting gear – big jumper, walking boots – and he’s got a knife.

“He said: ‘Right lads, we’ve got four hours, we’re cooking for dinner. Who doesn’t want to kill the rabbits?’

“Richie Gray puts his hand up, along with Ross Ford, Stuart Hogg and another guy. Vern then told them, ‘Right you four are killing the rabbits.'”

“An army guy at the camp pulled out this bunny rabbit – it’s not even a wild rabbit – and says: ‘this is how you need to kill it.

“He’s swinging this rabbit round with one hand, then next thing he slams it on the floor.

“I’m not joking, the thing’s eyes popped out of its head, then he cuts his throat.

“So the boys had to go and kill the other three. Richie is spinning this thing round and he’s saying that he can’t slam it, and Vern shouts: ‘f**kin’ kill it!’

“Richie does it, but it’s not dead, it’s shaking like mad and there’s blood everywhere, and he’s slamming it over the head with a stick.

“Needless to say, the rabbits didn’t taste that succulent – they were a bit tough. But that’s all we had for food, with 35 baguettes.”

This incident allegedly occurred at the training base at Font Romeu in the Pyrenees, where the players were forced into a commando-style training exercise with the French Marines.

Hamilton said the training consisted of “no sleeping bags, no tents, no kit – there are 40 big rugby players sat around the campfire”.

However last night Hamilton seemed to backtrack from the events on his Twitter saying that his account of the rabbit deaths were exaggerated.

However, a Murrayfield insider admitted to the Scottish Mail on Sunday that rabbits had been killed by the players at the camp.

The source said: “This was a well organised, well-resourced team-building exercise led by the Marines, where the guys where shown how to survive.

“They were shown, as a survival technique, how to kill rabbits and some took part. It was done properly and humanely and no-one was forced to do it. Vern Cotter did not order any players to do this.

“Unfortunately, some of what Jim Hamilton has talked about on the podcast has been exaggerated.”

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