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RFU reveal ‘Image of the Game’ findings



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The RFU’s ‘Image of the Game’ task force has unveiled 16 measures that it believes will eliminate cheating from the sport.

The Image of the Game Task Group has put forward measures it believes will help restore the reputation of the game.

After four weeks of investigation, including a survey of professional players and 4,500 responses from grassroots rugby, RFU President and Task Group Chairman John Owen said: “The aspiration of the Task Group was to eliminate cheating in all its forms across the game. This is vital if we are to rebuild the image of the game.

“The extent of the information gathered and the positive response to the surveys shows how much people care about rugby and thanks should go to the Professional Rugby Players Association and Premier Rugby Ltd for their support and contribution.

“As a task group we were determined to act decisively for the good of the sport and we believe that the recommendations, born out of findings and opinions from across all levels of the game, will enable us to do that.

“These are well thought out measures which as a union we will implement within set timelines. The support and involvement of the International Rugby Board and our fellow unions is also important if we are to ensure all the issues are addressed on a global basis.”

The Task Group focused on:

– The fabrication of blood injuries

– Feigning injury to enable substitutions to be made

– Any other “medical interventions” or areas of “medical practice” where existing regulations might be being breached such as the use of local anaesthetics on match days

– Events of ‘cheating’ and ‘gamesmanship’

– Unfair interference with the opposition team’s operations or preparation for match day

– The use of illicit/recreational drugs

– The use of performance enhancing drugs

The Task Group drew evidence from:

– A survey of professional players, resulting in 129 responses, including 102 who have played representative international rugby

– A survey of coaches, medics, physiotherapists and administrators in professional clubs and those attached to the England teams

– A survey of the grassroots game, resulting in 4,524 responses from players, coaches, administrators and match officials

– A full review of all England substitutions at its matches at Twickenham over the period 2002 to 2009 and the Rugby World Cup matches of 2003 and 2007

– A meeting between the RFU President, the RFU Disciplinary Officer, Dean Richards and his legal advisers

The Task Group found:

– There is no subtantiation whatsoever for allegations that cheating is widespread and systemic in the game either at international or domestic level

– Inappropriate behaviour remains extremely rare but still needs to be addressed. The evidence of the Harlequins situation demonstrates that single examples can still impact the sport adversely

– There are issues relating to blood substitutions, optimising the assessment of the potentially concussed player, feigning of injuries and local anaesthetics that need addressing. These may arise for a number of reasons, including gaining advantage, player welfare and concussion

– There is no substance whatsoever in the speculation that the England team has fabricated blood injuries.

– The impacts of wider societal trends cannot be ignored and need to be planned for

– In a global game there is a need for a consistent approach in all markets by relevant authorities

The Task Group recommends:

1. Gamesmanship, foul play and cheating
Include a definition of cheating in the Rules of the RFU and create a specific regulation covering this issue with severe sanctions associated

2. Fabricated blood injuries
IRB to establish guidelines on extent of blood required to necessitate substitution occurring and the role of the

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