LONDON - England's international rugby union team face a probe by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) amid claims that faking blood injuries to gain tactical advantage has seeped into the international game, English newspaper the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Francis Baron, RFU chief executive, has already vowed to re-establish the integrity of the game in England in the aftermath of the `bloodgate' affair at Harlequins following the faked blood substitution of winger Tom Williams.
The Williams affair has opened a can of worms after he alleged the club offered him financial inducements to mask the full extent of their cheating.
Williams went off with what appeared to be blood streaming from his mouth during a European Cup match against Leinster in April and the ensuing investigation revealed he had bitten into a capsule containing red dye.
The player's subsequent testimony led to bans for himself, Quins director of rugby Dean Richards and former club physio Steph Brennan.
Although the RFU has for now ruled out further action against Quins, the body is preparing to investigate the England team amid allegations of systematic cheating in the international game.
Former England lock and ex-Harlequins star Paul Ackford wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that the 'bloodgate' investigation into the Williams' case, conducted by businessman Malcolm Wall, has been presented with evidence of much more widespread cheating, including at international level.
A source in the report says the alleged corrupt practices exist in the English top flight and the Six Nations.
"According to our investigations it (cheating) is fairly widespread," the Sunday Telegraph quoted the unnamed source as saying.
"What I do know is that some of the practices are occurring within international teams.
"Those teams are involved in the Six Nations and England have in the past been one of them."
One alleged technique is of cutting players behind the ear, then stitching the wound before reopening it to allow a blood replacement to come on.