While one door closed at the Twickenham Stoop yesterday, another was left ever so slightly ajar. For Jim Evans, there was an enforced slamming shut of a playing career that stretched back 10 years with Harlequins. The 29-year-old, who made the England Saxons grade in 2007, has been hastened into retirement because of a shoulder injury. For "the foreseeable future" he will continue with the south-west London club, helping out behind the scenes on the technical analysis and conditioning front.
As for Dean Richards, Evans' old director of rugby at the Stoop, his future in rugby is not so much foreseeable as foregone. The former England No 8 still has two years and eight months to serve of the three-year suspension he received in August for orchestrating the Bloodgate affair. His replacement as Quins' director of rugby is expected to be announced before Christmas.
Nonetheless, in terms of the long-term, Richards could yet have a future, not just a past, with Harlequins. The possibility of a return at some point was mooted yesterday by Mark Evans, the club's chief executive, who survived calls for his own departure in the wake of the pantomimic episode in which wing Tom Williams used a fake blood capsule to engineer a late substitution in Quins' Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the Stoop in April. "Would we have Dean back?" Evans pondered in an interview with the Evening Standard. "Who knows? I can't answer that at the moment."
Evans added: "There is no anger and I have massive respect for Dean, who did an amazing amount for this club. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Sometimes we don't see how things will play out and I just think he is a terrifically talented and committed bloke. Of course, I will be sending Dean a Christmas card. Dean did a massive amount for this club."
Jim Evans has done a good deal for the Quins cause too, as John Kingston, the club's head coach, acknowledged. "He has always given of his best and put the club first," Kingston said. "He will be a sad loss on the field." The retiring player himself lamented: "This is a very sad day for me bringing down the curtain on 10 great years at Harlequins. It's ironic that the day I was advised to hang up my boots was exactly the 10th anniversary of me signing my first professional contract with the club."
Having steadied the ship on the domestic front, with just one defeat in their last seven matches in the Guinness Premiership, Harlequins set about the task of polishing up their European form on Sunday. They line up at home to Sale rock bottom of the pile in pool five of the Heineken Cup.
European action returns tonight with Newcastle looking to make home advantage tell in their Amlin Challenge Cup tie against Montauban. The Falcons are top of pool five after bonus point victories against Padova and Albi but now face back-to-back matches against a side who boast seasoned Scotland internationals in the lock Scott Murray and the centre Andrew Henderson. The Tynesiders welcome back their England Saxons scrum-half Micky Young, happily recovered following a head knock. They also have Alex Tait returning at full-back.
Not that the Kingston Park match is likely to attract the biggest crowd of the day. Down at Twickenham there is the small matter of the Varsity match. Cambridge, who will be captained by former Wallaby second row Dan Vickerman, lead the long-running series 59-53.
Untouchable? What Harlequins said
In the wake of Bloodgate, Charles Jillings, then Quins chairman, made the following statement about their coach and his actions:
"We, Harlequins acknowledge that we failed to control Dean Richards. I trusted Dean. As a result of the Board's failure to exercise control, the Club cheated. This is totally unacceptable. The Board was unaware of these facts until Tom Williams came forward on Wednesday 29th July, after the initial ERC Hearing. However, I was faced with the full extent of the devastating revelation that we had cheated and lied in our statements. As a consequence Dean Richards had tendered his resignation. I was shocked. The situation was very complicated and raised a number of moral dilemmas for everybody involved."Reuse content