England World Cup winner Matt Dawson has revealed the damaging legacy of a lengthy 15-year career littered with concussion. The scrum-half, who set Jonny Wilkinson up for the winning 2003 drop goal versus Australia, claims he was concussed on average five times a year – once in matches and four more in training. 

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Now 47, he has explained how this frequently repeated issue affects his short-term memory. Speaking in an interview with the BBC about the consequences of a 77-Test cap career with England star, the ex-Lions and Northampton Saints half-back said: “I have to be very conscious of re-reading things and writing notes down.

“It never used to be that bad. Far too frequently I wouldn’t know the details of games I played in and someone would tell me, then I remembered it. If you talk to any of my coaches I was always about the detail. That started to disappear a bit.”

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Dawson’s concussions caused his mother much concern during his time in the pitch. “She was very proud of me and loved the travel and pride that went with it but she couldn’t stand watching.

“After I retired she openly admitted that she really didn’t enjoy it and that she didn’t tend to watch the games, she would just watch me. She wouldn’t be able to tell you how the game went or who scored tries, it would just be if I got knocked out, she would know about it.”

Dawson, who these days has restricted movement in his neck, also spoke about how he was told less than twelve months before the 2003 World Cup that he should retire due to degenerative discs. “I broke down,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. They had just told me my career was over. That was one of the lowest points of my career.”

He sought out a second and third medical opinion and returned to playing despite being advised to make sure he didn’t get hit around the head again. “Now, you would think, ‘why would I risk carrying on? But when you’re a year away from playing in the World Cup and that’s the dream…”

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