Quins ready to right some wrongs
August 24, 2009
Harlequins captain Will Skinner is the centre of attention at Quins' season launch on Monday © Getty Images
Harlequins are determined to bounce back from the 'Bloodgate' scandal and restore the club's high standards both on and off the field.
The Premiership club are still reeling from the fall-out from the controversial fake blood incident during last year's Heineken Cup quarter-final loss to Leinster that resulted in a three-year ban for former director of rugby Dean Richards, a four-month suspension for winger Tom Williams and a further two-year sanction for ex-physio Steph Brennan.
The club itself was also found guilty of misconduct and was fined £260,000 but they escaped further punishment from the Rugby Football Union for four similar incidents uncovered by the investigation.
The events of the last few months have not only tarnished the reputation of one of the world's most famous clubs but also that of the sport and Quins captain Will Skinner is focused hitting the headlines for all the right reasons once the new season gets underway.
"Dean and the club have taken quite a bit on their shoulders which is unfortunate, but this hasn't been swept under the carpet," said the 25-year-old openside. "The internal review at the club has been brilliant, not only for the players but for the whole structure of the club.
"I'm sure we'll come back much stronger from this. Now it's about how we play and in every aspect Quins have upheld rugby to the highest standards. I think we've showed over the last few years since coming back up from National One what we can do. We will let rugby to do the talking for us."
Skinner shared a close relationship with Richards that began at Leicester and continued when his former Tigers director of rugby signed him for Quins. Out of favour at Welford Road, Skinner admits he owes much to Richards.
"There was no time during the incident when I thought about quitting. I love playing for this club," he said. "Dean and Harlequins have done so much for my career. I've really come on and have been made club captain.
"I spoke to Dean and understand why he felt he had to go. I have a very good relationship with him and he knows and understands that the players want to move forward now."
Fly-half Nick Evans was at the centre of the controversy as the player that Quins were so desperate to bring back onto the field and as a result the Kiwi is braced for some inevitable sledging.
"I was excepting a bit during our first pre-season game in Edinburgh but we didn't (get) much. I'm pretty sure the English crowd won't be so forgiving at places like Gloucester or Bath. We don't have any Irish teams in our Heineken Cup pool so we won't be getting problems from them!"
Quins have yet to appoint Richards' successor, although former Wasps director of rugby Ian McGeechan has been strongly linked with the position. McGeechan appeared to rule himself out of contention today, stating he had not spoken to anyone at Quins.
In the meantime, John Kingston will continue as head coach assisted by Collin Osborne and Tony Diprose, with the trio adamant the transition will be seamless.
"Fortunately because of Dean's trust, Collin, Tony and I were given total responsibility for the team last season," he said. "It was a successful formula so it was important that the three of us continue to work like that. The only difference is that we now select the team.
"Dean had responsibilities throughout the club and I'm sure the board will look at those to decide how to deal with the issues. It's fair to say I'm confident that Dean's absence will not impact on the immediate playing fortunes of the side."
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland