English Rugby
Johnson denies blood abuse claims
September 2, 2009

England manager Martin Johnson has dismissed claims that the faking of blood injuries is endemic in the sport.

The focus fell on the England set-up at the weekend with reports that Harlequins' internal inquiry had heard allegations of cheating at all levels of the professional game. But Johnson insists the practice of faking blood injuries - whether by use of a capsule, deliberate cutting or re-opening old wounds - has no place in the game.

"I don't think it is widespread. It is certainly not widespread in my experience as a player and with the England team this year managing it," he told Radio Five Live. "Have things like that happened before? I think you would be naive to say they haven't. Is it widespread? No, I don't think it is.

"In my time playing, including the time under Dean Richards and all my time playing with England, I never saw or heard about a blood capsule. I never thought blood on the field was anything other than blood.

"Personally, I have never had it done and I have never come off for anything but genuine blood. I don't think it is widespread. In saying that, it has happened at Harlequins."

Johnson was saddened that Richards, his former team-mate and coach, had been caught up in the scandal and paid for it with his job and a three-year ban.

"Dean took a desperate gamble in that situation and it is clearly wrong. It is a sorry tale and he has paid a very heavy price for it," said Johnson. "I am particularly sad about it because Dean is probably the biggest name in Leicester Tigers history. He had a great record here as a player and a manager and he was doing a great job at Harlequins.

"It takes away all the good things they have done on and off the field. He has taken them from the first division into Europe and winning away in Paris. Those good things are lost a bit now."

But Johnson welcomed the strong disciplinary action that has been taken against those involved and he believes changes must now be made to the blood substitution system.

"It has not been swept under the carpet. That has been the best thing. It has been dealt with," said Johnson. "The guys involved have lost their jobs and have had a pretty heavy punishment for it.

"I think ultimately there may be a bit of tidying up of the blood substitution rule. I think it is a little bit open to abuse and it would be a good thing in being tidied up."

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