Here are the latest rugby headlines on Thursday, August 31.
300 rugby union players taking legal action
The number of rugby union players now part of the concussion litigation against World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union and the RFU has reached 300.
In a new update, lawyers representing the group say they are are disappointed with the conduct of the governing bodies so far, accusing some of going to considerable lengths to “refuse service of proceedings, disclose documents and even agree a date for a court hearing”.
The players involved include former Wales captain Ryan Jones, Welsh international Alix Popham and England World Cup winner Steve Thompson, who have all been diagnosed with early onset dementia. The numbers joining the legal action have risen by dozens this month, it has emerged.
In total, law firm Rylands Garth says it now represents over 450 rugby players (including rugby league) with brain damage, as well as 25 in football. The rugby contingent include Wales internationals and British Lions, as well as over 100 amateur players. It is the ticking timebomb and biggest problem rugby has to deal with in the coming years.
The firm says all claimants are already suffering from neurological impairments. They range from those in their 20s, through to their 70s, with some suffering with probable CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Ten sportsmen Rylands Garth represents have, sadly, died from their brain injuries, the lawyers say.
The claimants allege the governing bodies were negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows. They say rugby remains unsafe and will lead to more players suffering neurological impairment.
The allegations include the alleged failure of rugby bosses to reduce the amount of contact allowed in training and the number of matches per season/year. It is also claimed they failed to take adequate steps to inform, educate or warn players about the risks of permanent brain damage.
Scottish media slam unfair World Cup draw
A Scottish journalist has slammed the early World Cup draw and claimed Scotland have been “handed a monumental task by the incompetence of World Rugby”.
Writing in the Herald, Martin Hannan questioned why World Rugby – or the “Dublin blazerati” as he puts it – held the draw three years ago when, in football, UEFA’s Champions League group stage draw takes place just 20 days before the tournament begins.
Adding that the “whole saga reeks of amateurism”, he said: “I know we have been promised changes in future but that’s no use to Scotland now. We haven’t quite been robbed yet, not least because Gregor Townsend’s men are in such good form, but it definitely looks like it to me.”
The draw was held in December 2020, using the rankings from January of that year as not all Test sides had played due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Much has changed since then, with the top five sides in the world – including Scotland – all based on one side of the draw.
It means one of Scotland, Ireland or South Africa will exit at the group stages, while two of the top four sides in the world (Ireland, South Africa, France and New Zealand) cannot progress past the quarter-finals. On the other side of the draw, Wales and England can reach the last four without facing any of the world’s top five teams.
“Those 2020 rankings are now almost four years out of date and the situation has changed utterly since then,” adds Hannan. “It means that Scotland, then ranked 9th and now 5th, have suffered a monumental injustice because in January, 2020, world champions South Africa were ranked No 1, and Ireland No. 5.
“Now we have the Irish top of the rankings and South Africa No 2, meaning that Scotland must face the two best teams in the world in Pool B while England, for instance, who were ranked No 3 in January, 2020, have now slipped to No. 8. Their conquerors of last weekend, Fiji, are now ranked one above England, whose main rivals in Pool D, Argentina, have risen from No 10 in January, 2020, to No 6 in the latest rankings published on Monday.
“The disparity between then and now is even worse when you look at Wales who were 4th in the world in January, 2020, and have now slipped to No 10. It is blisteringly unfair that Scotland must face the world’s top two which leaves us with a very slim chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.”
France face big blow
France are facing up to a new likely hammer blow just over a week before the start of the Rugby World Cup, with the news centre Jonathan Danty is set to miss the opening match against New Zealand.
The French Rugby Federation (FRF) have confirmed the 30-year-old has a problem with his hamstring.
Danty will have further tests over the coming days, with the hosts set to play the All Blacks on Friday, September 8 in Paris.. He is likely to be replaced by Bordeaux-Begles’ Yoram Moefana or Arthur Vincent of Montpellier for the opening game.
France have already lost starting fly-half Romain Ntamack for the whole tournament due to a serious knee injury and loose-head prop Cyril Baille for at least their first two games with a calf strain.
Sinckler’s World Cup inspiration
Kyle Sinckler was inspired to play for England by the 2003 World Cup final – despite being forced to miss Jonny Wilkinson’s drop-goal in order to study maths.
Sinckler was 10 years old when he watched on television as Martin Johnson’s side were held 14-14 by Australia at the end of 80 minutes, ushering in a period of extra time that was ultimately settled by Wilkinson’s boot.
But the enthralled Sinckler never got to see the greatest moment in English rugby history as his mum Donna had ordered him to study.
“Watching 2003 was a massive motivator for me. I remember when the final was on, I had a maths tutor,” the Bristol prop said.
“Obviously it went to extra time and then my mum – honestly I don’t know, she’s so ruthless that woman sometimes – she literally turned the TV off and took me to my maths tutor.
“So I had to do my maths lesson and I found out afterwards that we’d won! Honestly, it was full-time and she said ‘you’re going to your maths tutor’. I said: ‘You’re joking!’
“But she was adamant: ‘Nope. I’m paying my money. I’m working hard to pay for your maths tutor so you’re going.’
“I was like: ‘You are so evil, ridiculous!’ Don’t even start with that woman! Nuts. Nuts!
“Before that I was literally glued to the TV, it was so inspiring for me watching that. It gave me, I guess, the hope that I wanted to emulate that one day.”