RFU vow to stamp out cheating
August 23, 2009
RFU chairman Martyn Thomas has been saddened by the damage done to the sport's reputation © Getty Images
Rugby Football Union chairman Martyn Thomas is determined to restore the sport's reputation in the wake of the Harlequins 'bloodgate' saga.
The game is still reeling from the fall-out of last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final between Quins and Leinster, and the damaging fake blood scandal that saw former Quins rugby director Dean Richards, player Tom Williams and physio Steph Brennan all banned.
Richards was hit with a three-year suspension after being found guilty of masterminding the incident while Williams was banned for four months after appealing an original 12-month ban. Brennan yesterday resigned from his post with the RFU having been banned for two years by European Cup disciplinary chiefs.
Richards has taken responsibility for organising the fake injury that saw Williams go off six minutes from time to be replaced by Quins' top kicker Nick Evans, who had earlier departed the game through injury.
Thomas admitted the sport could have "done without" the bad publicity, but vowed that measures will be put in place in an attempt to stamp out further incidents.
"The sport could have done without it. It's clearly damaged the reputation of rugby. We have got to recognise that the damage has been done," Thomas told Radio Five Live's Sportsweek.
Thomas said spectator and public confidence in the sport had to be repaired but he had no knowledge of any other fake blood injury incidents. But he accepted they may have taken place following admissions from other players who had "no axe to grind".
He was concerned such theatrical devices were being used on the pitch. "It's not Hamlet, it's rugby," he said.
Speaking in the Daily Telegraph, Thomas added, "Clearly as a result of this the RFU have to act on two issues - governance and the issue of protecting the culture and values of the game. We need to restore public confidence in the game and the status quo is not an option.
"Clubs should be aware that the RFU will no longer take no prisoners over cheating in the future. Even if a club put their hands up now, they can expect a similar three-year ban that was given to Dean Richards. And if they attempt to cover-up their actions as Quins did, the ban could be even longer."
Thomas also indicated he was most disappointed with the failure of Richards and the club to admit their wrongdoing at the original disciplinary hearing.
"If you have made a mistake, however bad it is, you should put your hand up and say 'I have done it and I was wrong.' But if you have already had your credibility damaged, to then attempt to lie your way out of it to the authorities, only digs yourself into a deeper hole and leaves you very little to defend yourself with."
Thomas added that rugby chiefs were discussing the issue of having independent doctors at games to assess players.
Premier Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty has revealed that new injury checks are set to be brought in for the new Guinness Premiership season in response to the Harlequins 'bloodgate' scandal.
Under the plans, players leaving the field with blood injuries in Premiership matches would be assessed by opposition medical experts to confirm there is no attempt to cheat.
"I will be talking to the clubs and the board about regulations that will allow the opposing team doctor to verify any blood injury and I cannot see anyone objecting to this," he told the Mail on Sunday.
"Such a sanction will provide the deterrent to ensure blood capsules and fake blood injuries will never happen again. We have a scheduled board meeting on September 3 and I see no reason why this new rule cannot be in place in time for Sale's game against Leicester the following night."