English Rugby
Quins rocked by fake blood fallout
August 12, 2009

Harlequins No.8 Nick Easter has admitted the Premiership club has been rocked by the fake blood scandal and the subsequent departure of director or rugby Dean Richards.

Richards resigned from his post last week after winger Tom Williams was found guilty of fabricating an injury in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster. The club also accepted a £250,000 fine but face a further appeal hearing next week with their future in this season's competition in jeopardy.

"The club is shocked. Everyone has taken a hammering," Easter revealed earlier today at England's open training session at Twickenham. "It is upsetting and disruptive. What Deano has done over the last few years has been tremendous."

Richards guided the club from the first division into last season's Guinness Premiership play-offs and they secured historic back-to-back Heineken Cup pool victories over Stade Francais. As boss of the world-famous club he oversaw the impressive development of Easter, Ugo Monye, Danny Care and David Strettle while the likes of Chris Robshaw and Jordan Turner-Hall are now on the fringes of the Test squad.

"He was massively influential for me," said Easter, who has won 29 caps since making his England debut in the 2007 Six Nations. "He made massive pushes for a lot of players, not least me, to be able to wear the white England shirt and with his knowledge of the position he was able to give me a lot of tips.

"When he speaks, you listen because he is a very shrewd guy and a very intelligent guy. Thank God I have had a good run in the England team, long may it continue and a lot of it is owed to him, certainly.

"What Deano has done over the last few years has been tremendous for the club. We were going forward. Everyone realises that. It is sad he is going."

England manager Martin Johnson, who played with and under Richards at Premiership side Leicester Tigers, said, "On a personal note with Dean, it is a sad way for a guy to leave a club. I was surprised to see what has happened. It is a serious situation and it is a sad way for a guy to go, especially with what he had done with that club."

The Harlequins squad have rallied around Williams, whose appeal against the severity of his 12-month suspension will be heard in Glasgow on Monday.

"The guy has been under tremendous strain about the whole thing," said Easter. "We went out for lunch with him yesterday and had a relaxed time and he seemed better in the company of the players rather than thinking about it all the time. To be stuck in the middle of it, you certainly wouldn't want it to happen to you."

Williams' decision to appeal is set to shine the spotlight back on Richards and two club medics, who all had misconduct charges dropped at the original hearing due to a lack of evidence.

European rugby's disciplinary chief has appealed that decision and the level of Harlequins' monetary punishment, half or which was suspended. If the appeal hearing goes against them, Quins face the prospect of potentially being thrown out of Europe.

"That certainly seems to be what we are reading at the moment," said Easter. "The Heineken Cup is the next step up. It is the buffer between Premiership and international rugby. It would be a big blow (if that happened)."

John Kingston has been placed in temporary charge at Quins, who open their Premiership campaign against Wasps on September 5.

In an open letter to supporters, Harlequins chief executive Mark Evans thanked Richards for his contribution to the club and expressed a wish that his reputation not be stained forever by one mistake.

"I would like to thank Dean on behalf of the club for his enormous contribution over the last four seasons," he wrote. "His input has been absolutely central to the improvements the club has made on the field and I am sure that I speak on behalf of the players, staff, board and supporters in thanking Dean and wishing him all the best in his future.

"It was no surprise to me or the board that he wanted to take full responsibility for events. One mistake, albeit extremely high profile, should not overshadow a career in which so much has been achieved."

Evans insisted the club would not rush into appointing a successor and would consider all their options, including a potential restructure of the coaching staff.

"The appointment of a director of rugby is a key decision and not one that we as a club will be rushed into," Evans wrote. "The last appointment took three months and is a lengthy and in-depth process. We may restructure internally or we may seek a direct replacement.

"I have every faith in the abilities of our existing coaching team of John Kingston, Colin Osborne and Tony Diprose who have all been involved with the club for many years.

"They will temporarily take on some of the responsibilities left by Dean's departure including team selection and dealing with the media. The board will ensure that issues such as players' contracts and strategic decision making are not overlooked."

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