Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taking Big Hits Just a Part of the Game

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Taking Big Hits Just a Part of the Game

Article excerpt

AFTER a week in which two former Newcastle Falcons players were forced to retire from the game, both Dean Richards and Jimmy Gopperth agree there is limited scope for rugby union to minimise the impact of injuries.

Leicester Tigers pair Ben Woods and Craig Newby, both ex-Falcons back-rowers, last week admitted defeat in their bid to continue as professionals after hand and knee injuries respectively.

Falcons prop Dan Frazier dropped out of the final year of his contract at Kingston Park due to a serious back injury this summer, while last season's relegation rivals London Wasps had to endure an incredible five injury-enforced retirements in Joe Worsley, Steve Thompson, Tom Rees, Dan Ward-Smith and John Hart.

Despite the trend feeling like an increasing one due to the spate of recent high-profile cases, Falcons' director of rugby Richards said: "It goes in fits and starts.

"When I was a player myself there were a lot of guys retiring through injury, and the wonders of medical science are such these days that you are looked after more than ever before.

"The difference I have noticed is that you have to be at 100% most of the time, whereas in our day you could play with an injury and be at 70 or 80% and get away with it. You can't do that nowadays, hence why we are starting to see a few more retirements than before."

The ex-England and Lions number 8 added that the frequency, as much as the power, of collisions was a contributory factor.

He said: "The impacts are getting harder and, more crucially, there are more harder hits during a game then there were years ago. There were still big hits in those days, but they are much more prevalent and regular now."

Insisting rugby union should resist calls to de-power or reform itself in the wake of player retirements, the Falcons chief said: "You don't want to change the game and ruin it. Rugby is great as it is, and if you change it too much it becomes a different sport."

Falcons' fly-half Jimmy Gopperth added a players' perspective, having hardly missed a single league game during any of his three seasons in the English game. …

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