Wendy Chapman, the doctor embroiled in the fake blood scandal at Harlequins, still has a career to pursue. The General Medical Council yesterday decreed that her ability to practise had not been impaired by her behaviour towards the end of the Heineken Cup quarter-final between Quins and Leinster in April of last year. The council ruled that Chapman failed to act in the best interests of her patient – the wing Tom Williams, whose lip she sliced open with a stitch cutter as part of a substitution scam orchestrated by the London club's director of rugby Dean Richards, who is currently a third of the way through a three-year ban.
Chapman admitted cutting Williams at the player's own urging – he had bitten on a capsule of fake blood in order to make way for the team's leading goal-kicker, Nick Evans, who would not otherwise have been allowed back on to the field – and also acknowledged that she lied to a disciplinary panel investigating the affair. But the GMC panel also heard that she had been suffering from depression at the time of the events at Quins and took the view that she acted as she did because of her "altered state of mind".
The panel chairman, Dr Brian Alderman, described the circumstances as "wholly exceptional" and although he told Chapman that she had been guilty of serious misconduct, he added: "You do not pose any risk to patients or the public. The panel accepts there is a public interest in retaining the services of a good doctor." That conclusion came as a mighty relief to a number of senior figures at Quins, who have been struggling with guilt over Chapman's predicament.
James Gaskell, the 20-year-old Sale lock who has spent quite enough time in the company of doctors since breaking down with injury last February, will return to Premiership activity against Newcastle on Friday night as the youngest captain in his club's history. Sale may not be in the best of places after last season's near-miss on the relegation front, but they still have a number of hardened Test players on their books, from Mark Cueto and Charlie Hodgson in the backs to Andrew Sheridan up front.
Head coach Mike Brewer, a former All Black of considerable standing, is not exactly renowned for his conservatism, however. Denied the services of three high-class backs in Cueto, Hodgson and Mathew Tait for the first serious game of the domestic season – all three are hors de combat – he has named a player even younger than Gaskell, the 19-year-old wing Tom Brady, in a squad of 27. Brady, who lives within a drop-goal's distance of the club's training ground at Carrington, featured strongly in Sale's build-up programme and is, according to the coach, included on merit.
Leicester, meanwhile, have made a late move in the marketplace by recruiting New South Wales Waratahs lock Steve Mafi as cover for the England tourist Geoff Parling, who may miss the entire campaign after undergoing surgery to correct a neck problem. Mafi, a Tongan international, is likely to find himself a busy man, for the Tigers also have injury concerns over Richard Blaze and are, on their own admission, "a bit thin" in the second-row department.
They are not struggling when it comes to money, though. They made an operating profit of almost £300,000 in the last financial year, reversing a loss of £989,000 in the previous 12 months, and increased turnover by eight per cent to £18.5m.
English women eye final
England take on Australia tonight in the Women's World Cup semi-finals as they seek to make the final for a fifth time in the competition's 19-year history. Gary Street's side have history on their side at The Stoop as they attempt to emulate the 1994 Cup-winning side, having won all three of their previous meetings with Australia.
Street has made five changes to the side that qualified as top seeds after winning all three pool games for the loss of just 10 points. Alice Richardson, Fiona Pocock and Amy Turner return in the backs, along with Heather Fisher and Rosemarie Crowley.
"This is a huge game and as such we have picked an extremely experienced side," Street said. "The Australia-England rivalry is a great sporting contest and [this] will be no different. We won't be taking anything for granted. There are no easy games in a World Cup semi-final."
France take on New Zealand at 6pm in the first semi-final, which also takes place at The Stoop.
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