12 April 2009 – Harlequins RFC v Leinster, Heineken Cup quarter-final. Bloodgate. One of the worst rugby scandals ever? Noah Hilton-Dew thinks so
Rules in rugby union state up to eight substitutes, but unlimited if they are a blood substitution. It involves what it says in the name – a substitution where blood is obvious and apparent is allowed.
12 April 2009. Five minutes left. Twickenham Stoop. Harlequins versus Leinster. Quarter-final. Harlequins are down by a point, their goal-kicker is off the field. Harlequins are out of substitutions and winger Tom Williams is the designated man, he will make way for the next best kicker Nick Evans.
In an interview with BBC Sport, Williams recalls a blood capsule placed under his tongue when he went down for a genuine injury, the capsule was to be bitten by Williams and Harlequins could genuinely take him off as a blood replacement.
Harlequins eventually went onto lose the game but millions saw Williams wink at his teammates, not dissimilar from Ronaldo’s infamous wink to Wayne Rooney when he was sent off.
Although the event has since not been repeated, it easily could, and may have been since; Harlequins’ infuriatingly brought what is a beautiful game into disrepute, the fact it is laced by blood and injuries adds to the adrenaline of playing and watching every weekend, and a repeat runs the risk of ruining the reputation of the hardened, solid nature of rugby.