Worcester Warriors chairman Cecil Duckworth OBE has today been named as part of the Image of the Game Task Group set up by the RFU in response to the high profile events of the last few months in professional rugby and the impact that has had on the reputation of the whole game.
The Task Group, which will be chaired by John Owen, President of the RFU, draws on heavyweight experience, expertise and insight from across the world of professional and amateur rugby and includes representatives from the RFU, Premier Rugby Limited (PRL), the Professional Rugby Players Association (PRA) as well as current and retired players. David Barnes, Lawrence Dallaglio, Cecil Duckworth and Andrew Coppel have all accepted the invitation to join the Task Group.
The aim of the Group is to carry out a wide ranging and thorough review of all issues in the game - both professional and amateur - and establish a clear roadmap for addressing those issues including a timeline for doing so. The terms of reference for the group are captured below, as is the membership.
The first meeting of the Taskforce will take place in the week commencing 7th September and the RFU will communicate regularly on progress being made against the terms of reference. The intent is that the Taskforce develops a series of clear recommendations by the 30th September that can then be put to the RFU Management Board for approval and immediate action thereafter.
The Task Group members are:
John Owen, President of the RFU (Chairman of the Task Group)
Martyn Thomas, Chairman of the RFU Management Board and IRB representative
Francis Baron OBE, RFU Chief Executive Cecil Duckworth OBE, Chairman and Owner of Worcester Warriors, PRL board member
Andrew Coppel CBE, Chairman and Owner of London Irish, PRL board member
David Barnes, Bath RFC player and Chairman of the PRA
Lawrence Dallaglio OBE , retired player and Board Director at Wasps, a PRL club
His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, RFU Disciplinary Officer
Bob Rogers, RFU Past President and Chairman of the RFU 'Core Values' Task Group
Peter Baines, Chairman, RFU Governance Standing Committee
Rob Andrew MBE, RFU Elite Rugby Director
Andrew Scoular, RFU Community Rugby Director
Peter Thomas, RFU Corporate Communications Director
The terms of reference identified for the Task Group are:
1 To review the impact of recent disciplinary cases on the standing, reputation and image of rugby union.
2 To consider any other evidence of 'cheating' or 'gamesmanship' supplied to the Task Group involving any of the following:
• Fabricated blood injuries;
• Feigned injuries to enable substitutions or gain an unfair advantage;
• Other medical interventions with players to gain an unfair competitive advantage;
• Events of 'gamesmanship' to gain an unfair competitive advantage;
• Unfair interference with the opposition team's operations.
3 Assess the impact of recent events on the game in England and on our commercial partners who support it;
4 Review the recommendations of the 'Core Values Task Group' and recommend any additions necessary to incorporate any matters arising out of the above issues;
5 Review the management reporting lines in professional clubs and recommend a model for club governance to ensure proper accountability for implementing the Task Group's recommendations;
6 Review and update all existing 'Codes of Conduct' in the light of recent incidents;
7 Review any professional or ethical issues for doctors, medics and physios arising out of recent events;
8 Consider the need to incorporate any additional provisions into the Standard Player Contract and EPS Player Contracts;
9 Incorporate as appropriate the findings and conclusions of the Illicit Drugs Forum recently established by the RFU;
10 Review our Regulations in the respect of the above issues and recommend any changes or additions necessary to the RFU Council;
11 Produce a detailed action plan with target dates for delivery of each element. This action plan will detail clear outcomes, proposed strategies to counter inappropriate practices and any proposals for changes to RFU rules and regulations.
The Task Group will have the powers to call in for interview any individual involved in any RFU member club and in some cases may offer immunity from disciplinary action or anonymity of sources to any individual who wishes to furnish relevant information to the Task Group.
Francis Baron, RFU CEO, commented: "The RFU has been very clear that we needed to act quickly at a game-wide level to ensure that recent events can never happen again. The Image of the Game Task Group includes the people we believe can help us do that. This is not a Disciplinary panel set up to take action against clubs and players, the RFU Disciplinary process will handle that should it be necessary. Nor will it be a talking shop. It will be focussed on the issues at hand and actionable solutions. We will do whatever it takes to rebuild the reputation of the sport and that work starts now."
Even now Worcester Warrior Ryan Lamb is impressed by the physicality and athleticism of some of Aviva Premiership Rugby's giant forwards and has called on rugby newcomers to witness the intensity first hand.