Rugby union warned to act or face "extinction within a couple of generations"

Sir Bill Beaumont has been warned that rugby union faces “extinction within a couple of generations” if urgent action is not taken to tackle brain injuries in the sport.

An open letter, sent today to the chairman of World Rugby by a powerful lobby of voices drawn from right across the game, claims that rugby, in its present form, “is broken”.

Progressive Rugby says more “must” be done to protect the health and wellbeing of players from excessive workloads, brain trauma and the “potentially serious and life-threatening consequences that come from repeated concussive and sub-concussive injuries”.

Among its demands are that contact in training is limited and substitutions in games are allowed only for injury.

The group has been formed by ex-players James Haskell and Jamie Cudmore in alliance with Professors John Fairclough and Bill Ribbans.

Signatories to the letter include World Cup winner Steve Thompson, recently diagnosed with early onset dementia, and one of nine retired players to have launched legal proceedings against World Rugby.

Former England stars Kyran Bracken and Tim Stimpson, ex-England women’s captain Catherine Spencer and past and present Wales duo Jonathan Davies and Josh Navidi have also have lent their support.

The proposed plan of action includes recommendations for a concussion database and a concussion fund, health passports, health MOTs and the involvement of independent brain experts alongside sports scientists.

“We all love the game of rugby, and want to see it continue in the long-term,” said Dr Barry O’Driscoll, World Rugby’s former medical adviser.

“However, the game as it is, is broken, with many more players likely to end up with neurological impairments in the future.”

The lobbyists wish to see themselves as “team mates not opponents” of the governing body.

But their letter is a direct response to Beaumont’s claim that World Rugby is doing everything it can on the issue of brain trauma.

Progressive Rugby argues that the authorities have a “moral and legal duty to minimise risk and to inform players and parents of the risk of brain damage from repeated knocks”.

They say they believe "this issue is the greatest threat to the worldwide game” and want rugby to follow the example of the NFL which has “metamorphosed from a sport in denial to a proactive organisation”.

“There is an opportunity for rugby to turn the page and follow the example of our American cousins,” reads the letter.

“The current and future generations of players require urgent action to be assured that they will be adequately protected and cared for.”

Progressive Rugby ask that World Rugby meet with them to discuss “how we can work together to get control of this issue that threatens the very future of our game”.

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