Quins close in on securing replacement for Richards

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The Independent Online

Harlequins, who will find themselves in the bitter-sweet position of sending their fellow close-season miscreants Bath to the foot of the Premiership table if they lose at Leeds tonight, intend to name a new director of rugby before the end of the month. The lengthy process of identifying a successor to the disgraced Dean Richards, who resigned during the summer as a consequence of the fake blood scandal that spawned a dozen tribunals and inquiries, is nearing its conclusion and the Londoners expect to put supporters out of their misery within a fortnight.

Any number of high-profile names have been linked with the vacancy. The 2009 Lions coach Ian McGeechan, who left Wasps at the end of last season, was the early favourite. More recently, the former England No 8 Tony Diprose, already a highly-regarded member of the back-room staff at the Stoop, has been talked of as the front-runner. The chief executive Mark Evans, who knows more than anyone, was not breathing a word yesterday, apart from acknowledging that an announcement was imminent.

Evans was far more interested in discussing the unprecedented interest in the second of the club's so-called "Big Games", a derby against Wasps at Twickenham on 27 December. More than 50,000 tickets have been sold and Quins are confident of filling the 82,000-capacity stadium, as near as damn it. This much is certain: they will break the attendance record of 52,000 for a regular-season Premiership fixture, set when Quins played Leicester at the same venue last Christmas.

Tom Williams, the wing who sparked the furore that brought down Richards by biting on a blood capsule during a Heineken Cup quarter-final with Leinster last spring, will play at Headingley this evening, filling the gap left by the England back Ugo Monye, who is ill. Will Skinner, the captain, will be on the bench after recovering from the ankle injury that has incapacitated him since mid-October.

Leeds, who have their Argentine prop Juan Gomez in the front row following his return from representative duty, are seeking a second victory of the campaign. If they manage it, Bath, still struggling for form after the trauma of two highly publicised outbreaks of drug misuse, will drop to bottom ahead of their difficult game at Northampton tomorrow.

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