Rugby

Players taking legal action against rugby's governing bodies over concussions

Former players are preparing claims against World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union for negligence over brain injuries suffered during their careers.

World Rugby, England Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union received notice

Steve Thompson of England, pictured above, was included in the initial group that prepared lawsuits through the Rylands Sports Law firm. (David Rogers/Getty Images)

World Rugby and two of the sport's major national governing bodies received notice that proceedings are being brought against them by a group of former players preparing claims for negligence over brain injuries suffered during their careers.

The three organizations — World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union — said on Thursday they will take time to consider the contents of a letter of claim sent by solicitors representing nine retired players who are suffering from concussion-related health problems.

"We have been deeply saddened to hear the brave personal accounts from former players," read a joint statement from the three bodies. "We will continue to use medical evidence and research to keep evolving our approach."

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, who retired in 1982 at the age of 29 because of repeated concussions, insisted "safeguards in rugby are in place" to protect players and reiterated that player welfare will always be his No. 1 priority at all levels of the game.

In an open letter published by World Rugby, the former England captain did not address the specifics of the letter of claim but said he was "saddened by recent accounts of former players and their experiences."

"It is not easy for them to speak so candidly about their personal and family circumstances," Beaumont said. "It is very clear they love the game and want it to be the best it can be.

"I can reassure them that we do, too, and we continue to welcome their views."

Steve Thompson, who was one of England's 2003 Rugby World Cup winners, as well as former England flanker Michael Lipman and former Wales flanker Alix Popham were in the initial group preparing lawsuits through the Rylands Sports Law firm.

Since then, former Wales Under-20 centre Adam Hughes, who is now 30 and whose career was ended by a brain injury in 2018, and 44-year-old Neil Spence, an ex-England Under-20 back-rower, have revealed they also are part of legal action.

Rylands Sports Law alleges the risks of concussions and sub-concussive injuries were "known and foreseeable" and listed 24 failures on the part of World Rugby, the RFU and WRU.

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