Rugby union’s black summer
On Saturday Dean Richards, a former policeman and stoic rugby stalwart for three decades, resigned as director of rugby at Harlequins in the wake of the London club’s shenanigans in their Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster last season.
Tom Williams was banned for 12 months for faking a blood injury when he spat out a gush of bright red liquid – his fate all but sealed by a sit-com wink to the bench captured in all its dumb glory by TV cameras.
Quins were also fined 215,000 pounds for their role in the incident – or their refusal to co-operate fully in the subsequent investigation – and Heineken Cup officials have appealed against Richards and club medical staff being cleared of any wrong-doing.
The whole thing was underhand and sneaky and Harlequins, the club who operate in the shadow of Twickenham stadium and with a long reputation for Corinthian values, should hang their collective heads in shame.
The account of the all-day bender that ended with former Australia lock Justin Harrison flattened by a punch from a Harlequins player after snorting what he later admitted was cocaine made shocking reading.
Harrison, who scarpered to Australia immediately after the May dust-up, admitted to shouting “Class A, it’s OK, everyone’s doing it,” over a microphone on the coach taking the players to the London party.
This comes six months after England prop Matt Stevens was banned for two years after admitting using the drug after failing a routine dope test.
Three other players, including England international Michael Lipman, were banned for refusing to take a drugs test in the aftermath of the London dust-up – their plea that the hair-sample method was outside WADA’s recommendations doing little to convince the neutral observer that they must have had something to hide.
Things have come a long way from the amateur days where washing down a barrel of beer with an aftershave chaser was considered the ultimate wild behaviour but the decline in standards is no laughing matter.
Two more cases of eye gouging – in June matches by established internationals Schalk Burger and Sergio Parisse – attracted widely-criticised bans of only eight weeks and led the International Rugby Board to call for a tightening of regulations concerning what they described as a “heinous” act.