Richards 'mortified' over 'Bloodgate' scandal

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Former Harlequins director of rugby Dean Richards last night lifted the lid on his role in the 'Bloodgate' scandal.

In a statement released to Press Association Sport, a "mortified" Richards confirmed he ordered Tom Williams to fake a blood injury in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Leinster.

Richards revealed he discovered eight days after the incident Williams had insisted on having his own lip cut to cover up the fabrication.

At that point, and with Williams' agreement, Richards decided to orchestrate a cover-up, which he now admits was "obviously wrong".

Richards, the former England number eight, was banned for three years at a European Rugby Cup disciplinary hearing on Monday.

Harlequins were fined £260,000 and Williams had a 12-month suspension reduced to four months after coming clean.

Richards said: "I have always been passionate about rugby and in the dying minutes of that Heineken Cup quarter-final - a stage that Harlequins had never reached before - I allowed my passion for the club to compromise my judgment.

"I ordered a blood substitution to be made using fake blood. Thankfully the substitution did not affect the outcome of the game.

"Some eight days later I was told by Tom Williams that, in the heat of the moment and at his direction, he had his lip cut to make it appear as if there had been a real injury if anyone asked to look at it.

"Believing this to be true, I felt a managerial duty and sense of loyalty to safeguard the professional position of those involved.

"From then on, with the agreement of Tom Williams, I suggested the fabrication of a story which led to us all withholding the true facts, a position that was obviously wrong.

"I have since made clear that I accept full responsibility for what happened and have apologised for my actions. I honestly believed that I was acting in the best interests of the club and my colleagues, a clearly mistaken belief.

"I am mortified that this matter has brought damaging publicity on Harlequins, members of its staff, my own family and the wider game of rugby, a game that I am passionate about.

"I have co-operated fully with the Harlequins' internal investigation that is still ongoing and I am relieved for all at the club that my actions have not cost them a place in the Heineken Cup this season.

"I will review the full judgment of the appeal committee when it is released and I will be making a decision on my future and any appeal after that."

The 'Bloodgate' incident occurred with five minutes remaining in last season's quarter-final and Harlequins trailing Leinster 6-5.

Quins did not have a specialist kicker on the field, having replaced Nick Evans earlier in the match and then seen back-up fly-half Chis Malone carried off injured.

A blood replacement was the only way Harlequins could legitimately send Evans, who had been struggling with a knee injury but was officially replaced for tactical reasons, back on to the field.

Television cameras had spotted Williams winking towards the bench as he left the field. Harlequins engineered one late drop-goal attempt but Evans missed.

The original ERC disciplinary panel dropped charges against Richards, physio Steph Brennan and doctor Wendy Chapman due to lack of evidence.

But when Williams decided to appeal against his 12-month ban and come clean on the cover-up, the spotlight was turned back on the club.

Richards was banned for three years. Brennan, now an England physio, received a two-year suspension and the RFU are currently reviewing his position.

Charges against Chapman were again dropped because the appeal committee lacked jurisdiction.

The ERC appeal hearing on Monday heard evidence that Harlequins could have faked injuries on four other occasions, the details of which are being passed to the Rugby Football Union.