Rugby union’s black summer

August 11, 2009

It has been a black summer for rugby as the game that likes to claim the moral high ground in matters sporting has been exposed as being perfectly able get down in the gutter with the best of them.

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.

WALLABY LOCK FORWARD JUSTIN HARRISON MAKES A FACE DURING FUN PARK RIDE IN SYDNEYThings are not much brighter at Bath, a club at the centre of that city’s heartbeat but now ripped asunder by the banning of four players for drug-related offences.

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.

Soccer’s Premier League season is about to kick off but, for once, the oval-ball followers will not be able to sit back so smugly and condemt the the diving, the histrionics and the wild West End parties.
Picture of Justin Harrison on a Sydney rollercoaster by Will Burgess 
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Could be worse mitch, you could be a fan of aussie rugby league.

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive