The blood, sweat and tears of English rugby players
Each year, twenty top rugby teams from England, France, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Italy gather in a tournament known as the European Rugby Champions Cup. In 2017–2018, the competition received more than one million fans who attended a total of 67 games, including the final, where Leinster Rugby from Ireland defeated the club Racing 92 in the suburbs of Paris, with more than 50,000 spectators. The Cup, which usually runs from October to May, is the most spectacular sporting event in the region. Winning the Cup is a key achievement for any rugby coach.
What probably caused the scandal, now known as Bloodgate.
Triumph "Leinster" in May last became his fourth such title and record. Their first victory was won in 2008–2009, when 24 teams took part in the tournament, then called the Heineken Cup. The team from Ireland approached the game on the flight, having won in their group, and faced, probably, with the most difficult task in the quarterfinal tournament.In that first match, Leinster confronted the Harlequins, the English team based in London, and won with a score of 6–5. In the final minutes, however, the Queens (as the English team is often called) made the last attempt to win. Nick Evans, probably the best player on the team, tried to implement the so-called “drop goal” just a minute before the end of the game. He missed, and the Leinster team won.
(For those who do not know how to play rugby, the goal of a drop – goal is a goal scored from a rebound. A player who intends to score a drop – goal must drop the ball on the field and kick it with the foot after touching the ground with the ball - hitting hands are prohibited.)
From whatever side you look, the story above doesn’t even look like a scandal. The Queens lost, a successful drop – goal would have taken them forward, and one of their top players struck. In any case, it looks like a good plan, if not obvious. But there was a problem - Evans should not have been on the field.
At the 47th minute, Evans left the field with a knee injury; teammate Chris Malon entered the game under his number. As a rule, players who are replaced cannot re-enter the game.But there is an exception: if another player is bleeding. In this case, the bleeding can be temporarily replaced by anyone on the bench - even by a previously removed player - until the blood stops. And a little more than five minutes before the end of the match, it was this exception that happened with the wing “Harlequins” Tom Williams.
A lot of blood. Williams, according to the rules, had to leave the field and go to the doctors on the sideline. This, at first glance, a bad blow, however, was an opportunity. The Harlequins coach, Dean Richards, was able to return Evans to the game at a crucial moment. It was good luck - too good to be true.
And people began to wonder: maybe it was.
When Williams went to the sideline, the television camera captured something strange - he "winked sitting on the bench," as The Guardian later reported. The amount of blood flowing from his mouth was also suspicious - it really was too much! - especially considering that Williams did not seem to fall or hit. Even though the Harlequins lost the match, the world of rugby was buzzing with conspiracy theories. A four-month investigation revealed that in this case conspiracy theories turned out to be correct. The blood was unreal.
An investigation revealed that before the match, Williams was equipped with a blood capsule team physiotherapist. After the coach’s team, he bit through the capsule, causing the artificial blood to be whipped out of his mouth — a trick designed to organize this otherwise illegal replacement. Williams' winks and an excessive amount of blood attracted skeptics, but the team had a plan for this — when Williams allegedly received treatment on the sideline, the exact opposite actually happened. “Time” explained: “Since the suspicion around the successfully calculated injury began to grow even earlier than the match against Leinster was over, the medical staff of Harlequins urgently cut the real deep wound in Williams’s mouth with a scalpel to hide his deception.”
As a result, a sufficient number of people who knew about the ruse made statements and the relevant agencies took action. Williams was suspended for a year - exile, whose term was reduced to four months after he confessed to everything (and claimed that he did it under the pressure of the Harlequins management). The team's physiotherapist received a two-year ban.Richards, as the investigators found out, used a similar scam at least four times; he was forbidden to train any rugby team for three years. With the exception of some fines, however, the club itself was not punished - it would be strange if they were deprived of the match results, which they already lost.
Bonus fact.Rugby: real sport, unreal blood, at least in the above case. Professional wrestling? This is a fake sport, but until recently blood was often real. Some wrestlers inserted the blade into the ring or hid it in their wrapped wrists and a few minutes after the start of the match, they carefully made small cuts on their foreheads. Because of the large number of blood vessels and sweat, the blood flowed down onto the face of the wrestler, and it seemed that the athlete had taken on quite a significant blow. The practice, known as “blading,” was so common that the foreheads of the fighters of the time were often covered with strange, wrinkle-like scars. But now this is no longer the case - “blading” has fallen out of use, when the risk of contracting HIV has become more real, but WWE was not banned until 2008.