Sport Rugby: New safety group demands action to fix 'broken' sport
Promising rugby player was hooked on drugs before his death aged 47
New Zealand's Dion Honi Tainui was from a family of talented rugby players and it was expected he would make something of himself on the pitch.New Zealand's Dion Honi Tainui was from a family of talented rugby players and it was expected he would make something of himself as a sportsman.
By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) - A lobby group composed of players, officials, referees, coaches, medical experts and teachers has been formed to campaign for improved safety in the sport they describe as "broken".
Spearheading Progressive Rugby are former internationals, including Canadian Jamie Cudmore, who is involved in a long-running legal dispute with his former club Clermont Auvergne, and England forward James Haskell.
Cudmore has said the French club "put my life in danger" for effectively forcing him to play when concussed.
The group has made radical recommendations, including the removal of tactical substitutions, aimed at reducing incidences of concussion.
Super AU rule tweaks to speed up rugby
There will be a focus on reducing dead time and promoting expansive play in Super Rugby AU's rule tweaks this season.A host of law changes were introduced in last year's domestic tournament after COVID-19 forced the suspension of traditional Super Rugby.
In December nine former professional players in their 30s and 40s, most diagnosed with early-onset dementia, launched legal proceedings against World Rugby and other governing bodies.
Former internationals Steve Thompson of England and Alix Popham of Wales, who are leading that case, are also members of the group.
"Progressive Rugby passionately supports the core physicality of an 80-minute game of rugby and that extends to tackling in schoolboy rugby," the organisation said in a news release.
"However, Progressive Rugby believes that, around the acceptable risks that come from a game, much more can be done to protect current players and future generations."
Among the experts is Barry O'Driscoll who stood down from what was then called the International Rugby Board in 2012 in protest against its handling of concussion cases.
Super Rugby AU announce rule changes for upcoming season
With the Super Rugby AU season fast-approaching, the competition have announced a host of rule variations - and one of them will be sure to excite plenty of fans. In an announcement on Wednesday morning, there will now be 'Super Time' golden try for drawn games - a slight variation on last year's addition to promote more attacking rugby. There have also been other innovative rule changes brought over from last season, including the 50/22 rule and the replacements for red-carded players.
"We all love rugby and want to see it continue in the long term. However, the game as it is, is broken, with many more players likely to end up with neurological impairments in the future," O'Driscoll told a news conference on Wednesday.
"The IRB's treatment of concussion was going badly wrong then and has got worse since - it is a dereliction of duty."
Progressive Rugby sent an open letter to World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont demanding that more should be done to protect the rugby-playing community from the dangers of injury.
"World Rugby has a moral and legal duty to minimise risk and to inform players and parents of the risk of brain damage from repeated knocks," the letter added.
This was in response to a letter Beaumont, the former England captain who had to retire early after suffering multiple concussions, published last December which said that "player welfare is – and always has been – our number one priority at all levels of the game".
The Wrap: Injuries and depth to determine Super Rugby AU
One of the benefits of playing Test rugby in December and starting Super Rugby in mid-February is that the ‘silly season’ is kept mercifully short. That didn’t prevent some eyebrow-raising moments surfacing over the break, including Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan using his casting vote to determine that the 2021 Wallabies will strip in a version of the classic 1991 jersey. Of itself that wasn’t a bad decision at all, but the accompanying rationale – that McLennan chose the 91 jersey because it was the clear favourite of the 13,000 fans polled – raises possibilities.
Progressive Rugby says it "firmly supports the core physicality that comes with the game" but that its proposed changes "are essential to ensure its survival in terms of long-term player welfare and playing numbers at all levels".
Coming days after the Rugby Players' Association held its first "brain health webinar" for former players, the new group is calling for major cutbacks on contact and workload in training, the limitation of replacements to injury only, strict application of laws at the ruck and a review of the tackle area.
The group also calls for a minimum three-week "return to play" protocol period after a concussion and mandatory comprehensive screening.
Progressive Rugby points to American football's NFL, which has paid out almost one billion dollars in concussion settlements, as having "metamorphosed from a sport in denial to a proactive organisation" and wants World Rugby to follow its example.
"Clearly these members of our rugby family love the game and want it to be the best it can be," World Rugby said. "We do too. We are encouraged that the group are championing a number of initiatives that are already operational or being considered and we are open to constructive discussions with them regarding their proposals."
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)
One-by-one Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's patronages quickly move on .
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have told the Queen they will not be returning to frontline duties following their year outside the Firm. Buckingham Palace said their decision meant 'it is not possible to continue with the responsibilities and duties that come with a life of public service'.A statement said: 'The honorary military appointments and Royal patronages held by the Duke and Duchess will therefore be returned to Her Majesty, before being redistributed among working members of The Royal Family.