Tom Arscott has now left Sale. If it is proven that he deliberately leaked the team's line-out calls to Bristol via his brother then that would rank as an extraordinary betrayal of his team-mates as well as the club that paid his wages.
It sounds like something out of a John le Carré book, meeting his brother in a hotel on New Year's Eve the night before the teams' match. For as long as I can remember, teams have done everything they can to crack the opposition's line-out calls.
That thirst for information has always been there. Sometimes that means staying up until 3am studying television footage à la Steve Borthwick. Other times that information is attained by more underhand means.
I remember during England team runs on the day before an away international, wherever you were in the world, you would get the sense every single move was being watched. To begin with we used to run all our plays, but slowly but surely we reined that back to the point that when we played away we very rarely used to do any of our proper calls.
In a Lions environment that level of justified paranoia only increased. On the 2001 tour to Australia, Graham Henry had us doing line-outs in the park outside the hotel and guys were filming it. I pointed this out to Graham and he said: "They are just tourists". Looking at the corks hanging from their hats I was not so sure.
There is another story that on a tour to New Zealand, a folder containing the Lions line-out calls was left in a taxi and supposedly ended up in the hands of the All Blacks coaches. More recently, there is an allegation that a New Zealand team meeting was bugged before a Bledisloe Cup match against Australia.
Dirty tricks are hardly a new phenomenon but with more and more money in the game, clubs are going to become increasingly desperate to gain an edge by any means necessary. The question is whether this information war is worth it?
If Arscott did really pass the line-out calls on to Bristol through his brother, did that enable Bristol to come back from 15 points down to win 24-23? Or was it more about the fighting spirit Bristol showed in that game and Sale dropping off the pace?
Again, it is one thing knowing the line-out calls but it is another being able to react quickly enough to get up in front of them. If you call your line-out as you arrive and jump in the air then there is a good chance you are going to win the ball regardless of what the opposition do.
Then you can start throwing false calls in there. Regardless of any degree of deception, really smart players, such as Ben Kay, work out your line-out calls within 20 minutes.
This leads to a wider point about how much information is enough. You go to clubs now and the number of support staff and the amount of video analysis they all do is immense. I went on the Leicester Tigers bus shortly after the Racing 92 game last week and almost immediately all the coaches were given a laptop by the analysts. They had downloaded all the data from the game, clipped it up around certain areas like line-outs, scrum, breakdown. Clearly a huge amount of work has gone into that but I am not so sure it is proportionate to the returns it delivers.
I love my stats and my data, and there are loads of both swirling around. Yet I would argue that they are illuminating rather than instructive. Data is a reflection of trends and you should be able to notice trends as they take place. You may not know that a team's tackle completion rate is 92 per cent but you should notice that they are not missing many.
I am starting to think that the more information you digest, the more analysis you pass on to players, the more they become spoon-fed and the worse they become.
You want them to work it out for themselves. Really, they should be given a blank sheet of paper and told to go on to the field and play what they see. If you are losing your line-out calls then adapt. The great Wasps team under Lawrence Dallaglio used to plan on not getting the ball back from line-outs when their hooker Trevor Leota was throwing in.
Players can absorb only so much information. There is only so much space in your own personal server and once you get on the field that server becomes a lot more difficult to operate. By overloading players with messages you risk paralysis by over-analysis.
Regardless of how much difference it made, Arscott's actions, if proven, crossed a very significant line and the sacking was all but inevitable.