Longford Leader Columnist Mattie Fox: Time rugby chiefs tackled concussion debate

Mattie Fox

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Mattie Fox

Longford Leader columnist, Mattie Fox

Mick Cleary writing in the Telegraph last week, made a telling story about the issuing of a red card to Will Spencer of the Tigers in their game against the Wasps, for his (Spencer’s) head high tackle on Tommy Taylor after which Taylor was laid out.

According to Mick Cleary, and nobody sane could disagree with him, Rugby needs to change, and I quote:

“Welcome to the new reality of red cards being issued for shoulder/head-high tackles as per the one given out to Leicester’s Will Spencer on Sunday against Wasps. Welcome to the new reality where a sport takes its responsibilities to players seriously, where it does all that it can in its powers to minimise the risk of someone being killed or reduced to a vegetative state through extreme concussion.

Welcome to the new reality where players tackle lower, as once they always used to do. It did not seem to do the reputations of Jean-Pierre Rives or Fergus Slattery or Peter Winterbottom any harm. I cannot recall any of them ever being deemed soft. After you in suggesting that.

Rugby needed a high-profile incident such as Spencer’s to draw attention to just what the game needs to do to hammer home the fact that the head is sacrosanct. There is to be no turning back from this. It has taken years for the sport to recognise the horrors that it might be causing. The old macho days of a wet sponge, a shake of the bonce and a return to play through bleary eyes are long gone. And thank goodness they are.”

With his usual confident exercise in writing, Cleary cites the roll-callof casualties “and even fatalities, has been alarming, with front-line players, such as former Gloucester flanker Andy Hazell, having spoken about the fuzzy, lethargic, anxiety-burdened world into which a concussed person can be plunged. Peter Robinson’s 14-year-old son, Ben, died following a head injury sustained during a rugby match. On and on goes the anecdotal evidence of doom and despair.”

There you have it. Those are the stakes. This is not about being tough, about being a macho-warrior who never moans, who never stays down and who relishes the brutality of the engagement.

Don’t we all? The mano a mano contest, the confrontation, the bone on bone, the mettle against mettle, bravery on the line, no fear, no surrender, no backward step, are all integral parts of the game.

It is what draws people to play the sport as well as to watch it.

Yet, it is still the case in our country that nobody questions what has really happened when someone who is known to have suffered many head injuries, dies.

Maybe it’s high time the game of Rugby changed.