Former England coach Clive Woodward welcomed news that a group of former players are set to take legal action against rugby union’s governing bodies after suffering brain damage they say was the result of concussions, calling it a watershed moment.
England’s World Cup-winning prop Steve Thompson said this week that he had no memory of the 2003 final and, along with several other former players, held the sport’s various governing bodies responsible for their failure to adequately protect players from long-term mental impairment.
Woodward said it pained him to see the plight of the players and that the sport must take steps to improve safety.
“After the stand taken by Steve Thompson, Alix Popham, Michael Lipman and others, rugby must address the issues and take the initiative,” the 64-year-old wrote in his column for the Daily Mail.
“In such a physical game, player welfare is everything and, if rugby is to thrive, we must acknowledge this fully, with a view to making the present and future much safer at every level of the game.
“The physical nature of rugby is a huge part of its appeal but we have definitely gone so far down that path that ‘physicality’ has overpowered the game.”
Rugby Players Association (RPA) Chief Executive Damian Hopley said training methods should be reviewed as part of measures to help reduce concussions and Woodward concurred.
“The workload needs to be controlled and quantified and aligned between club and country,” Woodward wrote. “Safety protocols must be policed. Every contact and scrummaging session must be independently reviewed.
“The most dangerous thing for rugby to do is to do nothing…If rugby is considered too dangerous, participation will fall.”