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Williams to leave Harlequins 10 years on from 'Bloodgate' scandal

‘There’s a stigma that’s still attached to my name now that’s no longer attached to Harlequins.’

Williams leaves the field to allow Evans come back on during the quarter-final against Leinster in 2009.
Williams leaves the field to allow Evans come back on during the quarter-final against Leinster in 2009.
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

FORMER HARLEQUINS WINGER Tom Williams, who was at the centre of the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal, is to leave his position as the club’s academy transition coach at the end of the season, the announcement coming 10 years on from the infamous incident.

After retiring in 2015, Williams has been part of the Premiership club’s academy staff but has made the decision to pursue a career outside of rugby. 

The 35-year-old announced the news in the week of the 10-year anniversary of the ‘Bloodgate’ scandal — on 12 April 2009 — which shamed rugby and earned him a four-month ban. 

Williams was involved in the controversy when he left the field after biting on a fake blood capsule during a European Cup quarter-final against Leinster at the Twickenham Stoop, allowing a tactical substitution that got goalkicker Nick Evans back on the field.

Williams had come on the pitch as a substitute but came off himself in the 75th minute with blood apparently gushing out of his mouth, which allowed Evans to return to the field as a blood replacement and attempt to kick a winning goal, which he missed as Leinster hung on for a 6-5 win. 

When rugby authorities unearthed the conspiracy, Williams was suspended for 12 months — cut to four on appeal — while Quins rugby director Dean Richards was given a three-year global ban.

Former Harlequins doctor Wendy Chapman admitted to cutting Williams’ lip in the changing room in a bid to hide the fake injury, while physiotherapist Steph Brennan was struck off for his role in the scandal. 

On announcing his resignation from Harlequins, Williams said: “Harlequins has been a part of everything that I have done for over 17 years; very nearly half my life. I’ve seen tremendous highs and experienced lows which have tested my resolve to breaking point. However, despite those I do feel incredibly fortunate to have been part of the recent history of this magnificent rugby club.”

Rugby Union - Heineken Cup - Quarter final - Harlequins v Leinster - Twickenham Stoop Stadium Leinster won the quarter-final in London, before going on to beat Leicester Tigers in the final. Source: PA Archive/PA Images

While there was no mention of the scandal in Williams’ statement, the former winger joined Ugo Moyne and Danny Care on BBC’s Rugby Union Weekly podcast this week to discuss what happened that day.

“Nothing crossed my mind when I got handed the capsule, I was doing what I was doing for the team,” he said. “I was trying to impress my boss and get Quins into a semi-final of Europe.

“It was about doing what I could for the team and not having thought in the slightest about the consequences. So what was I most guilty of at the time? Probably following team orders and being a naive 25-year-old who should’ve known better.

“That day hasn’t been away from my thought process ever since that moment it happened 10 years ago. Inevitably there’s a stigma that’s still attached to my name now that’s no longer attached to Harlequins.

“Every time Harlequins are written about in the papers, it doesn’t say ‘Bloodgate’, does it? Every time I’m written about in the papers, it says ‘Bloodgate’. So who’s got the stigma?

“Yeah, I’ll take that it could’ve been worse. But it doesn’t get much worse than people turning up in vampire outfits to Twickenham the next season. It doesn’t get much worse than turning up at Sale and people calling you a cheat. How much worse could that get?”

Gavan Casey and Murray Kinsella are joined by Bernard Jackman to discuss Izzy Folau’s impending sacking by Australia and all the week’s news on the latest episode of The42 Rugby Weekly:

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Ryan Bailey

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