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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.

I just ran on the pitch and got on with my job. A few phases later, the physio runs on and gives me a blood capsule and I was like: ‘What the hell do I do with this?’ He told me to go into contact, put it in my mouth, chew it and go down. ‘We’ll get you off,’ he said.

Tom Williams, BBC Sport interview

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.

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June 2024