Rugby Football Union chief executive Francis Baron has vowed to confront the sport's image crisis head on through the creation of a “heavyweight” task force.
Baron declared “no stone would be left unturned” in the attempt to re-establish the sport's “core values” that he admitted have been damaged by a succession of scandals. 'Bloodgate' took a fresh twist when the appeal testimony of winger Tom Williams exposed the extent of the pressure he was put under by club officials not to reveal the full details of the incident.
With the remaining judgments from the ERC's disciplinary process for the case expected to be published in full next week, further damning revelations are sure to emerge.
A high-profile spate of eye-gouging, including by world-class players Sergio Parisse and Schalk Burger, the ensuing defence of rugby's most unforgivable offence by South Africa coach Peter de Villiers and the suspension of five Bath players for drug-related issues have also blighted the sport.
“It has been an immensely disappointing summer. The incidents that have happened have done damage to the game and its image,” said Baron.
“Judging by my mailbox, supporters are very disappointed with what's happened. Support for the game remains strong but fans don't like what has happened and expect something to be done about it. That is what we are doing and there will be no stone left unturned throughout the process.
“I'm setting up a heavyweight group of people. These are people covering different aspects of the game, experienced and very senior people. Everyone I've talked to feels the same way — we have got to re-establish in everybody's mind what the core values of our game are.”