IRB and RFU support Richards ban

 

Rugby:The International Rugby Board (IRB) has confirmed Dean Richards’s three-year ban is globally enforceable and the RFU has this afternoon come out in support of the punishment handed down by the European Rugby Cup.

Richards was last night found to have orchestrated the fake injury to Harlequins wing Tom Williams during the Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster in April.

Williams was initially banned for 12 months by the ERC but saw his suspension reduced on appeal to four months last night after providing evidence implicating Richards and former Quins physio Steph Brennan, who was handed a two-year ban.

Richards, 46, was found to be at the centre of a cover-up of an incident in which Williams faked a blood injury to allow outhalf and kicker Nick Evans return to the pitch during the 6-5 defeat.

“I’m very disappointed and very surprised. Three years is a long time,” the former England international said last night. “Listen, I took full responsibility. It was a farcical situation. It didn’t pan out really well.

“Even on the day, everyone looked at it and thought … ‘it’s unreal’, and that’s what I thought on the touchline as well.

“I had to hold my hands up.”

Asked if he had tried it before and if it was a “strategy”, Richards replied: “well I’m not going to go into that at this moment in time. I’m just talking about this particular incident and from that side of things, obviously I’m disappointed.”

The ERC found that Richards and Brennan had fabricated a wound or a blood injury on four previous occasions in non-ERC tournaments.

Details of other incidents in which Richards fabricated injuries are to be "passed on to the relevant tournaments organiser", the ERC added last night.

Confirming today that the ban is universal the IRB said: “Under IRB Regulations, and the application of the universality principle, all disciplinary sanctions handed down in rugby, including those arising from cross-border competitions, must be applied by all unions in membership of the IRB.

“ERC has sent out a strong message that there is no room for such conduct in rugby. 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.”

The RFU also supported the ban, saying: "European Rugby Cup (ERC) Limited has sent out a strong message that there is no room for this kind of behaviour in rugby.

"That is a message the RFU will continue to repeat across the game in England and through our own disciplinary processes.

"We can confirm that we will be upholding the bans handed out by ERC across our jurisdiction and that on this particular incident we will not be taking further action as we believe the ERC sanctions are appropriate."

The Professional Rugby Players' Association (PRPA) has welcomed the reduction of Williams’s ban and said the actions of Richards have left an "indelible stigma" on the sport.

PRA chief executive Damian Hopley said: "We are grateful to the ERC disciplinary panel that Tom's 12-month ban has been reduced on appeal, but the aftermath of this episode has left an indelible stigma on the professional game.

"There is no place for orchestrated or fabricated cheating in rugby and the players welcome today's findings as an overdue wake up call and very strong deterrent."

Richards resigned earlier this month after an independent ERC panel decided the team had staged the injury. In the July ruling, Williams and Richards were both suspended for a year, but a more serious charge of misconduct against the former rugby director was thrown out.

An appeals committee subsequently found Richards guilty of misconduct after hearing new evidence from Williams last night.

"The ERC ... found Mr Richards was guilty of misconduct in that he organised the fabrication of a wound or blood injury. Mr Richards acknowledged he had orchestrated the subsequent cover up of the incident."

Williams had explained how Richards and Brennan had organised the fabrication of the injury "as well as disclosing full details of the steps taken by those involved to cover up what had happened in the period following the match," the ERC added.

The club had an initial fine of €250,000 with half suspended raised to €300,000 to be paid in full.

Richards, a former England number eight, led Quins to second place in the English Premiership last year. Following his resignation, the club launched an internal review and said it would establish an appropriate ethics code.

"Whilst the club are pleased that Tom Williams' ban has been reduced, we feel this is a very significant penalty in terms of fine," a Harlequins statement read.

"We will now continue with our internal review into all aspects of the business to ensure that we have the most stringent compliance and robust policies and processes in place throughout the club and work towards rebuilding our reputation on and off the field."