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'If you're in a number of car crashes it's prudent probably not to be in the car': The London Irish verdict on Brophy-Clews' concussion-enforced retirement

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images)

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Declan Kidney has described Theo Brophy-Clews as a glue-type player whose personality and character epitomised the London Irish ethos that the ex-Ireland coach has been building at the club over the past three years. Brophy-Clews recently announced his retirement as a player at the age of just 24 following his latest concussion in last month’s Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat at Bath.


That fixture took place on April 9 and it was 42 days later when the news broke that the back with heaps of unfulfilled potential would have to retire with immediate effect. He made the announcement via an open letter posted on the various London Irish social media forums and it caused great sadness that Brophy-Clews was lost to the game after just 63 appearances since a 2015/15 debut for the club.

Four days after the player made his news public, Kidney gave his thoughts on the sudden loss of a player who had been a regular in the team this season. “That is the loss for us really, he was a brilliant clubman, the club meant so much to him,” said the coach. “His rugby knowledge is right up there, he is very good for working guys around, he can play that 10, 12 role really well. He is a very good team person in and around it. Without a doubt, he will be a loss. 

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“You can talk about all the high profile players as well but when it comes to the players that hold clubs together Theo is one of those ones in a great mixture between upcoming academy players and senior players as well then too because he was playing senior rugby before I arrived three years ago, so even though he is a young man he has been playing senior rugby for about five years. He will be a loss.”

Explaining the rationale behind the retirement of Brophy-Clews, Irish boss Kidney added: “It wasn’t the first of those type of injuries that he had received because has had some other ones earlier on in his career over a period of time. It wasn’t just so much one and this one wasn’t rushed into by any matter of means either. All the specialists were consulted, all the talking through with it, it wasn’t a sudden knee jerk reaction in any shape or form.

“This is just something that had been building up… look, if you are in a car crash you don’t stop getting back into the car but after a while, if you are in a number of car crashes it’s prudent probably not to be in the car, isn’t it? In Theo’s case, there had been a few other head knocks over the course of his career and it just got to the stage where, ‘Okay, with all the advice given on things like that maybe this is not for me’.”


Kidney reckoned the decision by Brophy-Clews to retire young was a reflection of the way concussions issues are now being addressed in the sport. “There was probably a certain amount of machoism going on before, wasn’t there, ‘Oh I’m grand, I will just get on with it’. 

“Now that people know the long-term effects that it may have – I can only say the word may, we’d all have our own different beliefs on that – but it’s now more in the public domain and as a progression of it somebody is going to make decisions along the way that are going to be right, so rather than someone saying, ‘Oh, I played on’, somebody is saying now, ‘No, I have had my innings, I have had a good innings with it’ which is what Theo has said, ‘I’d love to keep doing it but it’s the right thing to step back from it now.”


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