English Rugby
Richards facing possible further sanction
August 19, 2009

Former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards faces an anxious wait to see if he will be punished further for his role in the 'Bloodgate' scandal.

Richards was handed a three-year European coaching ban by an independent appeals panel on Monday that has since been made worldwide by the International Rugby Board but the length of the sanction could be extended by the Rugby Football Union who are set to examine documents which show Harlequins players faked blood injuries on at least five occasions.

The most recent of those incidents came in Harlequins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster on April 12 during which wing Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to fabricate an injury that allowed substituted drop-goal specialist Nick Evans to re-enter the field of play.

Richards, 46, and former club physiotherapist Steph Brennan admitted orchestrating a cover-up that had involved Williams' mouth being deliberately cut in the dressing room to hide the offence. The four previous transgressions took place outside the Heineken Cup, most likely in the Guinness Premiership.

The RFU said in a statement, "We are awaiting the full documentation from ERC to enable us to review whether there is further action the RFU needs to take against the club, its current or former officials, on those other incidents.

"We will issue a further statement when we have properly reviewed the documentation." Brennan was hit with a two-year ban on Monday - which the IRB have also extended worldwide - and he was yesterday suspended by the Rugby Football Union from his position of England physio, which he has held since the summer.

"Steph is immediately suspended from his role as England team physio pending completion of the review process required under RFU employment policies," the RFU added.

Richards said on Monday night he had yet to decide whether to appeal his current punishment, with the only avenue open to him now being the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Quins' fine was increased to just under £260,000 from the £215,000 - with half suspended for two years - they were ordered to pay at last month's original disciplinary hearing.

The misconduct charges against Richards, Brennan and club doctor Wendy Chapman were dismissed at that hearing with Williams handed a 12-month ban for his role in the controversy. The player appealed and saw that suspension reduced to four months after revealing he was acting under orders from Richards and Brennan. The appeals committee found they did not have the jurisdiction to punish Chapman.

Quins' chief executive Mark Evans was relieved to have escaped expulsion from this season's Heineken Cup, saying on Sky Sports News, "The panel had that option but they decided that a significant increase in the fine was appropriate. We were hopeful that perhaps the original sanction might stand but that wasn't the case and we accept that. I think an expulsion from the Heineken Cup was perhaps a bridge too far."

As for the prospect of replacing Richards, Evans added, "We're not sure yet whether we will. We will have a discussion internally at board level about whether we will replace like for like or change the structure and do it internally."

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