World Rugby have issued a response to the letter written by Progressive Rugby, a new lobby group spearheaded by ex-England international James Haskell which has been formed following the legal action lodged late last year against World Rugby, the RFU and Welsh Rugby by former players showing symptoms of dementia.
In calling for urgent reform to limit the risk of brain damage in rugby, the new lobby group called on World Rugby to adopt its ideas as a matter of urgency or the sport could face extinction within a couple of generations.
Included in their recommendations, Progressive Rugby have called for contact training to be limited, an upper-level tackle height review, a reduction in the number of replacements, a limit on the number of games a Test player can annually play in, and an increase in the minimum concussion rest period to three weeks.
As one of 28 signatories in the letter, ex-England forward Haskell has claimed: “The game needs to change things. We could do so much more to look after players. Why do we do so much contact in training when there is no need? So much gets brushed under the carpet.
“It’s only when it affects you and someone you know, you actually start to take notice. But paying lip service to it has to stop because we are getting these neurological effects when people are young – some even younger than me. If players like my old teammate Dylan Hartley have concerns over whether they get early-onset dementia, we need to take a stand.”
Progressive Rugby is a new lobby group wanting safety changes in Rugby Union. They're calling for more protection for players from the life-threatening consequences of head traumas and repeated concussions. @jameshaskell explains the reforms that the lobby group is looking for pic.twitter.com/CQYtLAvlpA
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) February 18, 2021
A statement from World Rugby in response to the Progressive Rugby launch read: “The welfare of the global rugby family is, and has always been, World Rugby’s priority. We take our responsibility very seriously and care deeply about our past, present and future players.
“That is why we ensure that players are at the heart of our discussions through International Rugby Players, and that is why we value and welcome constructive debate, respect opinions and listen to suggestions that advance welfare.
“We are progressive, which is why as scientific and medical knowledge and societal understanding continue to evolve, rugby evolves with it. We are always guided by medical and scientific consensus to inform our concussion education, prevention and management strategies.
“Clearly these members of our rugby family love the game and want it to be the best it can be. We do too. We are encouraged that the group are championing a number of initiatives that are already operational or being considered and we are open to constructive discussions with them regarding their proposals.”
"This isn’t like a doom and a scaremongering story, these guys have families and they are genuinely struggling"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 17, 2020
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