RFU advised to allow blood on pitch to beat cheats

Task group also calls for 'rolling' substitutions in response to Quins scandal

The Rugby Football Union, deeply angered by the fake blood scandal at Harlequins, will consider a raft of far-reaching proposals aimed at eradicating cheating and sharp practice in the so-called "game for gentlemen". These include allowing bloodied players to remain on the pitch, sanctioning the use of local anaesthetic on minor injuries on the day of a match and, most radically, introducing "rolling" substitutions – a development that would wholly transform the nature of the sport.

Yesterday, the RFU's "task group" – a gathering of the great, the good and the all-too-human, including the former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio – published the findings of a month-long investigation into the extent of sporting chicanery at the country's 2,000-plus clubs. Inevitably, in light of events at the Stoop last April and their painful aftermath, attention was concentrated on the situation at professional level, and while the task group argued strongly that cheating was neither widespread not systemic, some of the findings in a veritable doorstop of a document (138 pages of commentary, statistics and appendices) made for uncomfortable reading.

Only 23 per cent of professional players responded to the group's questionnaire, despite assurances of anonymity. David Barnes, the Bath prop who doubles as chairman of the players' union, brushed aside suggestions that 77 per cent of his membership might have something to hide – "We didn't want people to feel press-ganged into responding in a way that was false," he said, claiming that the figure was a "representative sample" – but there was a feeling of alarm nevertheless.

That discomfort was not eased by the extraordinary discrepancy in the responses on the fabrication of blood injuries – precisely the issue that brought Harlequins to their knees during the summer. Almost 90 cent of Premiership players who replied said they had never witnessed malpractice of this kind, yet two per cent claimed to have seen it often. A cynic might draw the conclusion that the vast majority of those playing for clubs where such practices are commonplace declined the opportunity to say so.

There was a greater admission of guilt over the fabrication of injury to front-row players in an effort to secure uncontested scrums. Almost half of those responding said they had personally witnessed or participated in this form of cheating, while 27 per cent of a second group – coaches, medics and physiotherapists – confessed to having done so in Premiership and European matches. This issue has been partially addressed by the introduction of an extra front-row replacement in the English, French and Italian domestic leagues, together with the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup tournaments, but the Celtic nations have refused to follow suit in the Magners League and there is no sign of such a move at Test level.

Other lowlights of the report included the startling statistic that almost 40 per cent of those Premiership players taking part in the survey have been "made to play" with injuries against medical advice or their own wishes. Any moves towards a solution were stillborn. "The task group felt that this area was outwith their terms of reference and did not discuss it further," members said in their report.

In all, 16 recommendations will be put to the RFU's management board and, where appropriate, to the game's supreme governing body, the International Rugby Board. The most eye-catching of these concern substitutions, together with a loosening of the regulations on the use of local anaesthetic on match day. This is currently outlawed by the IRB, a ban widely considered to be unpoliceable and frequently ignored.

By allowing players suffering minor blood injuries to stay on the pitch, the task group argue that the move would minimise the opportunity for coaches to make illicit changes of personnel. By the same yardstick, they feel the introduction of a system of rolling substitutions, under which players could take and leave the field much more freely, might eliminate many areas of abuse.

"We're not saying rolling subs should definitely be brought in," commented Dallaglio, "but we currently have situations where a concussed player finds himself staying on the field because there is no time for a doctor to examine the extent of his injury. That clearly raises a serious welfare issue."

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little