Banned Richards could face further punishment

DEAN RICHARDS may face further punishment for masterminding the Harlequins ‘Bloodgate’ scandal after his three-year ban was made global yesterday.

The International Rugby Board (IRB) confirmed Richards will be unable to coach anywhere in the world on the advice of an independent appeals committee, which suspended the former Quins director of rugby from coaching in ERC-organised tournaments on Monday night.

Richards, whose career and reputation now lie in tatters, took full responsibility for an incident which saw wing Tom Williams fake a blood injury during the April 12 Heineken Cup defeat to Leinster. Williams burst a fake blood capsule in his mouth so that substituted drop-goal specialist Nick Evans could re-enter the field of play with Quins trailing 6-5.

Former England forward Richards, 46, was found to have orchestrated a cover-up that saw Williams’ mouth deliberately cut in the dressing room to hide the offence.

Confirming the worldwide ban, the IRB said: “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.”

Monday night’s appeals committee, which was convened for nearly 14 hours in Glasgow, also found Richards and then-Quins physiotherapist Steph Brennan had faked blood injuries on four previous occasions.

Brennan was hit with a two-year ban – which the IRB have also made worldwide – and he was yesterday suspended by the RFU from his position of England physio, which he has held since the summer.

The appeals committee confirmed the four previous fake blood episodes occurred outside the Heineken Cup – which most likely means they took place in the Guinness Premiership.

The RFU were yesterday awaiting documentation from the ERC, with Richards, Brennan and Harlequins – who were ordered to pay a fine of just under £260,000 (€304,000) over the affair – all facing possible further sanctions. The RFU said: “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.”

Richards said he had yet to decide whether to appeal against his current punishment, with the only avenue open to him now being the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Quins’ fine was increased from the £215,000 (€252,000) – with half suspended for two years – which they had been ordered to pay at last month’s original disciplinary hearing.

Quins chief executive Mark Evans was relieved to have escaped expulsion from the Heineken Cup. “The panel had that option but decided an increase in the fine was appropriate.’’

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