The Kabul Times.
Sport

Rugby union at crossroads as need for entertainment threatens safety

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Everyone who enjoys rugby union will have winced at some stage over the weekend. For many it will have been the moment when Italy’s admirable captain, Michele Lamaro, discovered his team would, by the dispiriting letter of the law, have to soldier on with 13 men for an hour against one of the world’s top sides. Alternatively, it might have been the footage of a staggering Tomas Francis rejoining the fray at Twickenham having exhibited precisely the kind of ataxia symptoms that should see players permanently removed.
Or maybe it was the frequent long stoppages in both games. Or the time-consuming reset scrums. Or the constant peep of the referee Mike Adamson’s whistle during England v Wales. Or the distracting ebb and flow of water carriers entering the field of play? Or the lack of consistency when the Irish forward Ryan Baird caught his Italian opponent Marco Zanon with the same kind of upright tackle which had led to the Azzurri’s replacement hooker, Hame Faiva, being handed a red card. As it happened the grimmest development of all, Ukraine excepted, was still to come. And shocking it was, too. The preliminary findings of a study by the Australian Sports Brain Bank into the long-term ramifications of concussion in sport have been published, with chronic traumatic encephalopathy discovered in the brains of more than half of the deceased sportspeople examined, including three under the age of 35. Of 21 brains posthumously donated since 2018 by people involved in sports with a risk of repetitive head injury, 12 were found to have CTE lesions while all but one showed some form of neurodegeneration.
Which just leaves us with the stark testimony of the former Ireland flanker David Corkery in a powerful, sensitively written interview with Gary Doyle on the RugbyPass site last week. “It gives me shivers when I see the hits in the modern game,” Corkery revealed. “I got so many concussions, I lost count. I’ve suffered from depression for years. The black dog is always in the corner, ready to bark. My depression, is it related to those head injuries? I don’t know.”
Rugby clearly has plenty to commend it, too. Where would we be without the Six Nations? But only someone with their eyes and ears closed can possibly fail to appreciate the narrow ledge upon which the sport is now perched. Fail to take the possibility of brain injury seriously enough and the sport is doomed. Go too far the other way in terms of arcane, bolted-on laws and endless penalties and how many people will still want to watch it? It is a precarious position and rugby’s next moves will be critically significant.
Because everything we are seeing is intertwined as far as rugby’s public image goes. The Ireland v Italy fixture on Sunday descended into barely watchable farce partly because health and safety has led to the laws governing front-row replacements becoming properly byzantine. Even impressive, multilingual national captains are struggling to grasp them. But how, exactly, does protecting player welfare and upholding the integrity of the game tally with forcing an inferior side to soak up yet more punishment having already lost their first-choice hooker to a genuine tournament-ending injury? theguardian

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The Kabul Times.