Richards quits Harlequins

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Dean Richards has resigned as director of rugby at Harlequins, the Guinness Premiership club announced this morning.

The news comes in the wake of sanctions handed down after Quins back Tom Williams was found to have faked a blood injury to allow a substitution in last season's Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster.

Williams was given a 12-month ban by the European Rugby Cup panel while the club were fined 250,000 euros.

Quins are currently reviewing the incident, and a statement today read: "During the course of this process Dean Richards unreservedly tendered his resignation from his post as director of rugby. The board of Harlequins has accepted his resignation."

Richards and two members of the club's medical team had misconduct charges dismissed but Williams and Quins were both found guilty of fabricating a cut to the mouth in order to allow substituted fly-half Nick Evans to return to the field with five minutes remaining of the match.

Television cameras spotted Williams winking towards the bench with 'blood' smeared around his mouth.

The player has until this afternoon to appeal against the ban imposed on July 20, and Quins today indicated Williams would take that course of action, although the club have accepted the fine, half of which was suspended.

The statement continued: "Following the hearing held and decision made by the ERC panel on July 20, the club has conducted its own review of the incident. This review is still ongoing.

"As part of this process, the club has waited for the written judgment to ensure it had considered carefully the concerns and position of the ERC disciplinary panel.

"The club fully accepts the verdicts and sanctions imposed upon the club since it is accountable for the failings of its staff.

"The club feels strongly that the severity of the sanction meted out to Tom Williams is unfair and disproportionate and the club will support him in the event of an appeal on his part against the 12-month playing ban currently in place.

"We acknowledge that this whole episode has tarnished the image of the club, which has always sought to uphold the highest standards.

"The level of scrutiny that clubs such as Harlequins now find themselves under means that procedures and processes which may have served us well in the past are no longer adequate.

"The club is urgently undertaking a thorough review of its internal policies with a view to establishing an appropriate ethics code for all staff (both playing and non playing) covering a wide range of areas including respect for the laws of the game.

"While this process is still progressing there will no further comment from the club."

The disciplinary panel's full written judgment was emailed to both parties on Wednesday and if no appeal is forthcoming the contents of the judgment will then be made public.

Williams is understood to have been in contact with the players' union - the Professional Rugby Players' Association - who have provided him with specialist legal advice.

PRA chief executive Damian Hopley reacted furiously to the verdict, claiming Williams had been "singled out" and that a 12-month ban was "excessive and entirely disproportionate".

Richards, who has not spoken in public about the incident, established himself as one of the world's leading players and then coaches in a 20-year spell with Leicester Tigers.

The number eight played 314 games for Leicester, winning two league titles and two cups. He was capped 48 times by England between 1982 and 1997 and played on two British and Irish Lions tours.

Richards, 46, took over as director of rugby at Welford Road in 1998 and won four consecutive league titles as well as back-to-back Heineken Cups in 2001 and 2002.

A decline in fortunes led to his sacking in 2004 and a short spell in charge at Grenoble preceded his appointment at Quins in 2005.

He led the Londoners to promotion back to the Premiership in his first season and established them as a top-flight side over the next three years.

Quins finished second in the table last season before losing in the play-offs to London Irish.