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Warburton: 'If something isn't done, then a professional player will die during a game'

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Former Wales and British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has called for increased player protection, citing his fear that a professional player could die on the pitch.

The 30-year-old retired last July after winning 79 Test caps and having battled injuries which required surgery to his neck and knee.

The Cardiff Blue flanker’s autobiography Open Side is being serialised in The Times and he has written of his concern about safety in the modern game.

He wrote: “If something isn’t done soon, then a professional player will die during a game, in front of the TV cameras, and only then will people demand that steps must be taken.

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“It will be reaction rather than anticipation.”

He said that while awareness of concussion is increasing, the game itself had changed and become a lot more physical.

“You can’t have two blokes, 14 stone to 20 stone running full tilt, and make it safe,” he said, as quoted in the paper.”

In fact two professional players did die following on-pitch incidents last year.

Louis Fajfrowski, 21, collapsed in the changing room of his club Aurillac, the Pro D2 team and later died.

Nicolas Chauvin suffered a heart attack after breaking his neck in a recent academy match against Bordeaux. Chauvin broke his neck during an academy match and suffered a cardiac arrest and brain damage, dying three days later.

Warburton isn’t the only one concerned about player welfare.

In June Olympic Sevens gold-winning coach Ben Ryan made a plea on Twitter for a change to rucking laws ahead of the World Rugby Law Review Group meeting in London on Thursday and Friday.

A number of laws will be discussed, such as the reduction of the number of substitutes in a game and the potential introduction of a 50/22, which is similar to rugby league’s 40/20 kick.

However, Ryan and many other former players have been strong advocates in the ending of jackalling in rucks in favour of the former technique of driving over the tackled player.

Ryan shared a video of a gruesome injury that came from a player being cleared out in a ruck while jackalling, saying he hopes “we don’t see any more incidents like this in the future”.

PA – with additional reporting from RugbyPass.

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Warburton: 'If something isn't done, then a professional player will die during a game'