English rugby's day of shame
Quins winger Tom Williams leaves the field with fake blood streaming from his mouth on this day in 2009 © Getty Images
One of rugby's darkest days, although at the time nobody knew what the ramifications of Tom Williams heading off with blood pouring from his mouth during Harlequins 6-5 Heineken Cup loss to Leinster. It later emerged Williams had been given a blood capsule and ordered to feign injury so that substituted fly-half Nick Evans could return to the fray and hopefully kick his side to victory. An ERC investigation that found the club guilty of misconduct and an attempt to cover up the incident. Quins director of rugby Dean Richards was banned for three years and Williams was suspended for 12 months, later reduced to four on appeal. The club itself was fined £300,000, physiotherapist Steph Brennan was handed a two-year ban for his part in the scam and club doctor Wendy Chapman was suspended by the General Medical Council for allegedly cutting Williams' mouth in an attempt to conceal his use of a fake blood capsule. The investigation not only unearthed an attempted cover-up but also similar incidents and sparked a crackdown by the RFU and Premier Rugby who were forced to go on the offensive in a bid to restore the game's reputation.
Wales thumped England 30-9 in Cardiff where wing Maurice Richards equalled the Welsh Championship record by running in four tries. After the match England back-row forward David Rollitt let rip at RFU officials. "It's bad enough having five tries scored against you in a club match, but when it happens in an international that's total humiliation," he said later. "I felt ashamed for English rugby and I told a few people what I thought about their attitude." He was exiled for six years before making a brief return to England colours in 1975.
Cardiff staged its first Test match. Wales beat Ireland who turned up two men short and had to "borrow" two locals to make up their XV. Wales won the game by one goal to nil, under the old scoring system, with the crucial blow being struck by halfback Buller Staddan.
France, the Five Nations co-champions with Scotland, ended their season with a 25-13 victory against Romania in the first Test ever staged in Lille. The great Philippe Sella crossed for a try while Patrice Lagisquet popped up forn another after starting the game among the replacements.
Toulouse (comfortably 32-16 against Northampton) and Leinster (narrowly 18-13 against Biarritz at Lansdowne Road) won their Heineken Cup quarter-finals. Toulouse went on to win the tournament after subsequent victories over Munster and Leinster's eventual conquerors Perpignan.
New Zealand downed Australia 35-18 to sweep into the final of the Under-19 FIRA-IRB World Junior Rugby Championships in Santiago, Chile. New Zealand outscored Australia four tries to two, and led 27-6 at halftime, but the scoreboard failed to accurately reflect the closeness of the match. Australia dominated for large periods, especially in the second half, but they struggled to breach a New Zealand defensive line which scrambled magnificently time and again.
Wilf Wooller, the Wales and Cardiff captain serving with the Royal Artillery, was reported missing after the fighting in Java. He was subsequently found to be a prisoner of war.
The Barbarians ran up their then highest score against Penarth, winning 73-10 on the 50th anniversary of club membership of their new president, Herbert Waddell.
Ospreys centre Gavin Henson was banned for 10 weeks for a deliberate elbow on Leicester prop Alex Moreno during a Heineken Cup game at the Liberty Stadium. The ban capped a bad six months for the player who earlier in the year had been inspirational in Wales' Six Nations Grand Slam. Henson struggled to break the Test side on the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand and struggled with a groin injury. He returned to action in Wales' Six Nations loss to Ireland - being jeered onto the field by the Lansdowne Road crowd.
A nightmare before Christmas for the home fans among the 4057 at the Stoop as Harlequins were thrashed 16-52 by Wasps, a side containing 13 Englishmen. Wasps only led 17-9 at the break by two tries in three minutes after the re-start set up an eventual rout.
The IRB demanded answers from Perpignan after banned hooker Marius Tincu played in the club's Top 14 victory over Castres. Tincu was serving an 18-week ban for gouging after being found guilty of the offence following Perpignan's Heineken Cup loss to the Ospreys. The club, which bitterly opposed the ban, claimed it applied to cross-border tournaments only and not domestic competitions. The IRB eventually fudged its findings and did nothing but it did tighten the rules on banned players.
Dave Gallaher, legendary captain of the Original All Blacks, stood down from the New Zealand side to play Newport having been bitten on the finger a couple of days earlier playing against Glamorgan.
The England selectors were given a headache when the 'Possibles' outplayed the 'Probables' 17-3 in the trial match at Twickenham.
Dickie Lloyd, legendary Ireland fly-half who played before and after World War 1, died at his home in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, aged 59. First capped as a teenager in a 0-0 draw at Twickenham in 1910, he played 19 times for Ireland.
Not for the first time Lancashire and Yorkshire shared a scoreless draw in a County Championship round-robin match in the Northern Division. The result left the counties tied at the top of the group table and they would have to meet again to play-off for a quarter-final place.
A good Saturday crowd sensibly avoiding last-minute Christmas shopping was rewarded with an entertaining match at Old Deer Park where London Welsh, inspired by scrum-half Alun Lewis, beat Leicester 12-6 in cold, crisp conditions.
Enjoying their best season for years London Irish beat Saracens 30-23 in the Premiership at the Madejski Stadium. The Exiles broke up for Christmas with only three defeats from a dozen league games.