Fake blood claims nothing new claims former England coach

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The Independent Online

Rugby has had a fake blood issue for more than eight years yet done nothing about it, a former England coach has revealed.

As the Harlequins 'Bloodgate' issue continued to reverberate around the sport, ex-Harlequins and England coach Dick Best admitted that the issue had been a factor years ago, even whilst he was still coaching.

Best, who was sacked by Harlequins in May 1997, said "Eight years ago, I said this was evident in the sport. Yet no-one did a thing about it. In those days, people were coming off the field on a Saturday with blood injuries yet playing the following Wednesday with no stitches or sign of any injuries.

"I used to think to myself, hello. Because if you get a bad cut anywhere on your body, the last place you want to be three days later is on a rugby field. But players were coming and going all over the shop."

The furore that has broken since it was revealed Harlequins then Director of Rugby Dean Richards ordered the club's wing Tom Williams to bite on a blood capsule late in the Heineken Cup quarter final against Leinster last April, has hugely damaged the sport's reputation worldwide.

But Best's ire is directed mainly against those in administration who did nothing to nip the problem in the bud all those years ago. "I am not defending Dean Richards. But he got caught. What is surely the more relevant point is, why has nothing been done in the game about this problem?

"The game's administrators are to blame for the fact that it has gone on. In fairness, they have probably not known about it because they are not that close to the sport. This is happening, and has happened for a long time, at the hard edge of the sport where winning and losing is a fine line, an area reserved for those in the trenches.

"The game's administrators are so out of touch they have only just done something about the de-powering of the scrums and that's been going on for a long time, too. France brought in a rule of their own back in 2007 to try and stop a plague of uncontested scrums. Their new ruling reduced the number of de-powered scrums from 145 in one season to just two, the next. But it's only now that the IRB are doing anything about it.

"Although the blood issue was evident years ago, it just went away because no-one did anything about it. But you have to ask, who does the responsibility to take action fall under ? If it isn't the IRB, who is it ?

"I am not defending Harlequins in any sense but I will say, they are not alone in this. It is not too strong a word to say this has become widespread in rugby. It is systematically used as and when required. Harlequins themselves have admitted using it five times in 30 games. That gives you quite an idea about how much it has been going on because as I say, they are certainly not the only ones."

Best admitted the game had been damaged by the whole affair. "There has always been this holier than thou attitude in rugby union. We always saw ourselves as above everyone else. But all that has gone now because we have given others with axes to grind the opportunity to criticise us. It's our own fault for not having sorted it all out years ago."