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'No-one forced me to play. I was looked after well and the medics took the decisions they did with the best intentions'

By Ian Cameron
Andrew Sheridan was a force of nature for Sale and England. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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Former England and British and Irish Lions prop Andrew Sheridan says rugby union must find a balance as it bids to reduce the number of head contacts its players sustain.

Authorities are currently trying to lower the number of head contacts players are exposed to playing the sport. As well as lowering contact sessions elite rugby players are involved, officials are continuing the clamp down heavily on any dangerous play – inadvertent or not – that leads to brain trauma. That drive has inevitably seen a massive uptick in the frequency of red cards in the professional game.

In an in-depth interview with Owain Jones on the TheXV, Sheridan, who won 40 caps for England at loosehead, and suggests he’s open to the idea of players signing waivers to play the game.

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“There needs to be some honesty within the game. I know there is a narrative over concussion, with lawsuits flying about and governing bodies getting twitchy but whatever you do there will still be inherent dangers with large human beings clattering into one another; whether it’s below the knees, at hip height or people getting bowled over. If you’re trying to promote the game to a wider audience, I can understand blokes raking up and down each other with 21mm studs is not what you want to see, so rucking may not be coming back just yet.”

“From my experience, most rugby players just want to play. Do they need to sign something? I’m all for limiting contact in training and monitoring game-time, that makes sense, but as much as I like the softer skills of rugby, there are large parts of our fanbase that love the gladiatorial nature of the game. You know, smashing into each other, dusting yourself down and going at it for 80 minutes. That’s what gets supporters through the turnstiles or pays for TV subscriptions.”

The 6’5, 132kg Sheridan, who bench pressed 215kg at his peak, knows all about the physical nature of the game and believes that like in combat sports, there’s an inherent risk to playing rugby, a risk that plays a big part in the sport’s appeal.

“I could spend half an hour boring you about all the operations I had but it’s the nature of the game. No-one forced me to play. I was looked after well and the medics took the decisions they did at the time with the best intentions. The high-adrenaline and risk is what attracts the players, fans and sponsorship. Look at boxing, if you said, ‘You’re only allowed body shots, head shots are outlawed’, you’re not going to get people playing £24.99 for a big bout. I’m just saying that like fine wine, you need to find the right balance.”

Sheridan says he was disgusted by the decision to send off Scotland prop Zander Fagerson in round two of the Six Nations.

“Peter O’Mahony looked like he knew what he was doing, he cocked the elbow out, but when Zander Fagerson got sent off up in Scotland, I stopped watching. I know the referee got it right with the current interpretation but with all the issues around player welfare and concussion, it seems to have formed this narrative that doesn’t look at the game as a bigger picture.”

Read the full article HERE.


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