Legal claim: Joint statement on behalf of World Rugby, WRU and RFU
World Rugby and the game’s governing bodies in Wales and England have issued a joint statement after more than 200 retired players – including 2003 England Rugby World Cup winners Steve Thompson, Phil Vickery and Mark Regan, and ex-Wales fly-half Gavin Henson – brought a legal claim alleging they suffered brain injuries during their careers.
Vickery, Regan and Henson were named for the first time on Friday after they waved anonymity in their claims against World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union and the Rugby Football Union.
The group of former players also includes Welsh duo Ryan Jones and Colin Charvis, Scotland’s Sean Lamont and England’s Harry Ellis, and they hope to bring the cases together as one group action. However, it emerged at the High Court in London that the next hearing will not take place until April at the earliest.
A joint World Rugby, RFU and WRU statement read: “Whilst today’s case management hearing was necessarily about legal process, we must not forget about the people and players at the heart of this case. Legal action prevents us reaching out to support the players involved, many of whom are named publicly for the first time today.
“But we want them to know that we care deeply about their struggles, that we are listening and that they are members of the rugby family. The court’s ruling for the second time that the claimants’ solicitors must provide information previously asked for is a positive step.
“Despite the court’s order from June 2023, the court noted that there was a ‘gaping hole’ in the evidence provided by the claimant’s legal team. The further delay to the case is regrettable and the players’ lawyers seemingly prioritising media coverage over meeting their legal obligations is challenging for all concerned; not least the players themselves.
“Player welfare is rugby’s top priority and will continue to be our top priority. Rugby is committed to leading the welfare agenda in sport, driven by evolving science and research to protect and support players at all levels.
“This includes world-first initiatives, such as the use of smart mouthguard technology by all elite players to facilitate in-game monitoring and treatment of concussive and sub-concussive impacts. A lower tackle height is also being trialled in the community game to ensure that the benefits of our great sport can be enjoyed by all.”