RFU extend Harlequins 'bloodgate' bans

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The Independent Online

Dean Richards will be barred from coaching in England for three years after the Rugby Football Union confirmed they would apply the ban handed out by the ERC to English domestic rugby in the wake of the Harlequins 'Bloodgate' scandal.

Tom Williams will also be banned from RFU competitions for four months, while former Quins physio Steph Brennan has been suspended from his role with the England team for his part in the incident.



An RFU statement today said: "European Rugby Cup (ERC) Limited has sent out a strong message that there is no room for this kind of behaviour in rugby.



"That is a message the RFU will continue to repeat across the game in England and through our own disciplinary processes.



"We can confirm that we will be upholding the bans handed out by ERC across our jurisdiction and that on this particular incident we will not be taking further action as we believe the ERC sanctions are appropriate."

Richards, 46, was found to be at the centre of a cover-up over an incident in Quins' Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in April in which wing Williams faked a blood injury.

Former England forward Richards was also found to have been involved in four similar incidents and the RFU have not yet decided whether further action will be taken.



The RFU statement continued: "Given the disclosure in yesterday's appeal hearing of further incidents of a similar nature in other competitions we are awaiting the full documentation from ERC to enable us to review whether there is further action the RFU needs to take against the club, its current or former officials, on those other incidents.



"We will issue a further statement when we have properly reviewed the documentation."

The International Rugby Board later confirmed they would also apply the sanctions meted out by the ERC, meaning the trio are now banned from rugby worldwide.

AN IRB Statement read: "Under IRB Regulations, and the application of the universality principle, all disciplinary sanctions handed down in rugby, including those arising from cross-border competitions, must be applied by all unions in membership of the IRB.



"ERC has sent out a strong message that there is no room for such conduct in Rugby.



"The IRB operates a zero tolerance policy towards cheating of any form in the game and works tirelessly with all 116 member unions and key stakeholders to ensure that players are protected as well as the image of the game."



Richards, who resigned as Quins' director of rugby last weekend, admitted his guilt during a 14-hour independent committee meeting in Glasgow yesterday.



Charges against him were originally dismissed by a disciplinary committee last month.



Yesterday's meeting chaired by Rod McKenzie came about after the ERC's own disciplinary officer, Roger O'Connor, contested that decision.



It is thought O'Connor was seeking Quins' expulsion from this season's Heineken Cup but the club escaped that sanction.



O'Connor also contested the decision to dismiss charges against Brennan, who was handed a two-year ban for his part in the scandal.



Today's RFU statement continued: "We have also seen the sanction applied to our employee Steph Brennan and in keeping with our commitment to uphold the ERC bans, Steph is immediately suspended from his role as England team physio pending completion of the review process required under RFU employment policies."



Last month's hearing saw Williams admit faking a facial cut during the April 12 defeat to Leinster in order that substituted drop-goal specialist Nick Evans could re-enter the field of play.



Williams was banned for 12 months but saw that suspension reduced on appeal to four months last night after providing evidence implicating Richards and Brennan, who has been England physio since the summer.



Williams will be able to resume playing on November 20.

Quins chief executive Mark Evans admits the whole ordeal has been a "wake-up call" and revealed they have not yet started considering their options for replacing Richards.



Asked about escaping expulsion from the Heineken Cup, Evans said: "The panel had that option but they decided that a significant increase in the fine was appropriate.



"It's a very, very significant penalty and one we'll have to take some steps to be able to meet. We were hopeful that perhaps the original sanction might stand but that wasn't the case and we accept that.



"But I think an expulsion from the Heineken Cup was perhaps a bridge too far."



He continued on Sky Sports News: "It's been a bit of a wake-up call for everybody.



"I think there are very few rugby clubs, if any, that have the sort of processes in place that you probably need. It is a relatively young sport.



"It's been a very gruelling time. The club has lost a very talented director of rugby. We've paid a big fine. We've got a player banned for four months and we've got to take some other internal actions and obviously that has put the whole organisation under a great deal of pressure. Fair enough, that's the way it is."



As for Quins' management and coaching situation, Evans said: "We're not sure yet whether we will. We may, we really haven't considered it at all. We will have a discussion internally at board level about whether we will replace like for like or change the structure and do it internally.



"We really haven't taken any of those decisions yet."





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