Sir Clive Woodward has shot down explosive accusations that his England side cheated using fake blood in its victorious 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign in Australia.
Former England international Dean Richards accused Woodward’s 2003 team of cheating during a meeting with the RFU following the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal.
The 55-year-old ex-British & Irish Lions player told the board that he was aware that ‘fake blood’ was utilised by England back in 2003 because he was informed at the time by an unnamed source who was part of the Red and Whites squad.
Richards was banned from rugby for three years in 2009 for his part in the Harlequins fake blood scandal, where winger Tom Williams was handed a capsule of fake blood by the club’s physiotherapist.
He was then told to bite on the capsule when he made a tackle so he could be replaced for treatment, and goal-kicking ace Nick Evans could return to the game.
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Richards has adamantly claimed that the incident was not unusual in rugby at that time and occurred regularly not only in club rugby but also on the international stage.
TalkSPORT were first to report on the controversial document where Richards was quoted saying: “The use of fake blood, cutting players, re-opening wounds, feigning injury in the front row, jabbing players with anaesthetic all occur regularly throughout the game.”
Richards was then asked to state specific incidents, to which he replied: “Rugby World Cup 2003. England used fake blood to manage replacements.”
However, Woodward has vehemently denied the accusations and labelled Richards' comments as 'absolute nonsense.'
“We won every match in Australia. Why would we want to cheat? This is simply not true,” said Woodward per the Mirror.
“I am not sure why Dean raised this. I have never been involved in anything like this. It is ridiculous.”
With this can of potential worms opened, it will be interesting to see if any of those involved in the World Cup winning squad, and backroom team, will step forward with their take on events.
Former Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll - who played for Leinster on the day of Williams’ act - told talkSPORT that for him, faking blood injuries was as bad as players cheating by taking drugs.
“This, for me, is like drug taking,” said O’Driscoll per the Mirror. “I put that in the same category.
“For me there are different grades.
“Is Neil Back’s ‘Hand of Back’ [in the 2002 Heineken Cup Final] cheating? Yes, it’s a form of it, but do you know what? It’s gamesmanship and for me it’s acceptable, but it’s borderline.
“I think (Bloodgate) was a disgrace. Irrespective of the individual, the act of trying to take a blood capsule, create a situation that wasn’t real to get a player on is a real form of cheating.”
Richards is now Director of Rugby at Newcastle Falcons and has suffered a bitterly disappointing season thus far, with his team sitting bottom of the Gallagher Premiership with only 6 wins from 19 games.