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Mike Tindall in training for the Rugby World Cup, Queenstown, New Zealand. (Andrew Fosker / Rex Features)

It’s a little difficult to sort out what really went on when Mike Tindall and some of his teammates went to a nightclub on Sunday in Queenstown, New Zealand, where they are competing for the Rugby World Cup.

But it’s safe to say it may be tough for Zara Phillips’ new husband and the captain of England’s rugby team to live down this headline: “Mike Tindall gropes blonde; Zara’s hubby puts head in girl’s boobs at dwarf-throwing contest.” Individually, each element might offer its own PR challenge, but all three together – blondes, boobs and dwarf-throwing – are a formidable tabloid cocktail.

Of course, the story and colorful headline originated in The Sun, so you’d best bring a dose of healthy skepticism to it, and few would blame you if you viewed it entirely as an amusing exercise, so brazenly cheesy that it’s almost poetic.

Still, it’s of interest to look at the responses to the story.

A spokesman for England’s Rugby Football Union said, “Mike and several of the players were enjoying an evening out after he had led the team to a hard-earned victory over Argentina. Like all the lads, he plays for England with a massive amount of passion and he was relaxing after a tough match.” The comment has been variously viewed as a non-denial and a defense of whatever actually happened at the bar’s “Mad Midget Weekender” event.

Then there’s the bar’s point of view.

“Firstly: There was no dwarf throwing – that’s just not cool!” manager Rich Deane wrote on the bar’s Facebook page. “Secondly: There was no scandal by any of the English Rugby Players that we saw! They were great lads, not throwing the midgets, it was all light hearted good humored fun! This is the tabloids taking photos out of context and telling silly stories.”

But we’d venture to guess that for Mike, the most important response will not be from bar managers or even from the rugby union, but from his wife, Zara. And we also imagine that she’ll be focusing not on whether Mike was insensitive to dwarves but whether he was, perhaps, too sensitive to blondes.

But if initial reports are any indication, she’s okay with everything. The Express reports that the Queen’s granddaughter “laughed off” the story about the blonde as “ridiculous” and is still looking forward to flying down to New Zealand to see her husband competing in the World Cup.

In other royal related news:

• Prince Harry turned 27 today (Thursday). Despite being known for his love of partying, he was keeping his birthday rather low-key. He had a normal day of training at RAF Wattisham airfield in Suffolk. (via E! Online)

• Speaking of birthdays, we missed Pippa Middleton’s last week. She was 28 on Sept. 6. (via E! Online)

• Harry broke the record for biggest single currency trade the other day, and now Kate and Wills’ royal wedding is also going into the record books – into the record book – the Guinness Book of World Records. The category: “Most Live Streams for a Single Event.” It was watched by 72 million online viewers. (via Reuters)

• Madonna brought her new film, W.E., about the romance between Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII, to Toronto this week. She wrote and directed the movie, and she’s said before that she was drawn to the story in large part because she saw “elements of herself” in Simpson, an American outsider in Britain. In Toronto, Madonna said Simpson was a “provocative character” – perhaps another similarity the two women share.

“She is also a mysterious and enigmatic creature,” Madge said, “not conventionally beautiful, not young, twice divorced, not anything fabulous about her background and somehow she managed to capture the heart of the man who at the time held the most important position in the world.”

The singer-turned-director also got some attention for her statement that Edward was “very punk rock.” She made the comment when she was explaining how the Sex Pistol’s 1977 “God Save the Queen” ended up in the movie’s soundtrack.

Madonna said of King Edward: “I thought he was quite rebellious and cutting edge in his point of view about life and about how to run the empire and using the Sex Pistols was a perfect marriage.” (via The Telegraph)

Here’s a video report about the film from the Venice Film Festival, from the Associated Press:

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By Paul Hechinger