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Lions concussion row: 'I don't how much more I can talk about it'

By Liam Heagney

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Warren Gatland has again defended the decision to select Luke Cowan-Dickie on the Lions bench last Saturday just a week after the Exeter hooker was knocked out while playing for his club in the Gallagher Premiership final at Twickenham. 

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The decision to select Cowan-Dickie as the bench as back-up to Jamie George in the win over the Sigma Lions in Johannesburg generated a lot of online negativity. Kyran Bracken, the 2003 World Cup-winning scrum-half, led the way, tweeting: “I am absolutely disgusted that the powers that be allow this to happen. A stain on our great game.”

Progressive Rugby, the concussion awareness group formed following last winter’s revelations by the likes of Steve Thompson and Alix Popham surrounding dementia, also questioned the selection. “How on earth is Luke Cowan-Dickie on the Lions team sheet just five days after this? Cowan-Dickie will have to undergo stringent return to play protocols and will not be able to progress to full training until he passes series of tests.”

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Josh Adams’ inspirational Lions media briefing following his four tries versus the Sigma Lions
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Josh Adams’ inspirational Lions media briefing following his four tries versus the Sigma Lions

Gatland responded to this criticism during a pre-game TV interview on Saturday, insisting: “As far as I am concerned we have followed everything and the medical team have given him the all-clear. He is fit and good to go.” 

Cowan-Dickie went on to play eleven minutes off the bench, making nine metres off three carries and tackling twice, and he has now been chosen to start in Wednesday’s match versus the Sharks in Johannesburg. His selection, though, resulted in Gatland again being quizzed on the player’s recovery from concussion and how he was so quickly able to play for the Lions having been sparked out on the Twickenham turf seven days earlier. 

“There are strict protocols that our medical team follow that World Rugby have put in place that the players have to go through and with Luke, we went and got a world-renowned specialist in concussion to have a look at him and he cleared him as well, so he had gone through all the protocols. For people who don’t really know a lot about concussion, every player is affected differently. Sometimes a player can be knocked out and recover and be perfect in a very short time and another player might get a very slight knock and it can take them a while to recover from that. 

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“In terms of cases, there is no similarity between what players go through. All I can say is that I 100 per cent follow the advice of the medical team and they go through their protocols and when a player is passed fit then he is considered for selection. 

“I can tell you there is definitely no pressure from the rugby side and if he is not right then he wouldn’t have been selected. I don’t how much more I can talk about it. I don’t know. All I can say is people who are a lot more educated than me are making these decisions.”

Before Gatland’s latest rebuttal, Bracken had claimed in a follow-up tweet on Sunday: “The HIA is not fit for purpose. We wouldn’t allow a boxer or UFC fight seven days later from a knockout. I’m not criticising the doctors who passed him fit. I am criticising the system that allows this to happen.”

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Lions concussion row: 'I don't how much more I can talk about it'

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