Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Rugby head issues concussion warning

‘SERIOUS AND IMPORTANT’:Brett Gosper said that breaking of new rules during the Rugby World Cup would see sides sanctioned, adding that he expects full compliance

AFP, LONDON

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has warned teams taking part at the Rugby World Cup that they risk “sanctions” for failing to comply with concussion protocols, but stopped short of saying sides would be thrown out of the tournament for flouting rules regarding head injuries.

With the showpiece tournament starting next month in England, Gosper said the global governing body would be vigilant in trying to counteract any attempt by teams to rush players back too quickly from concussion.

“We have a series of sanctions at our disposal to act as a deterrent against non-compliance,” Gosper said on Tuesday.

However, asked if teams would be disqualified for breaking rules regarding concussion, an increasingly hot topic in rugby union after a series of high-profile cases, Gosper said: “No, no. It is unlikely that would happen. We think there will be compliance anyway. Everyone knows this is a very serious and important subject, and we are dealing with a medical area.”

“We do not envisage misuse of the protocols that we have, but we think it is important to state that non-compliance will be sanctioned, because this is a very important area for us,” added the 56-year-old Australian, who played club rugby for Melbourne and then historic French side Racing Club de France, which is now Racing-Metro.

Wales winger George North is only just back in contention for a Test return after being sidelined since March with concussion injuries.

Meanwhile, England fullback Mike Brown had serious problems after being knocked out in a 47-17 Six Nations win over Italy at Twickenham in London on Feb. 14.

Both their cases came after the highly controversial decision by Australian medical staff to let a still clearly concussed George Smith return to the field during the Wallabies’ third Test defeat by the British and Irish Lions in 2013 — an incident that led to a tightening up of regulations regarding player welfare.

“I am very proud of what all our team, medical staff and the unions within the game have done,” Gosper said of changes made since the Smith case.

“It has been recognized by other world federations that we are taking the lead in this area and many of them are coming to us to use our protocols and use the knowledge we have gathered,” he added.

Gosper, who has been in his post since 2012, following a successful career in advertising, said that the international residency rule might be reviewed.

Current regulations mean players who have yet to make an international appearance can play for a country after having lived there for three years.

However, there is a growing view within the game that this is too short a time frame and that, at the very least, a review was needed — an opinion Gosper said was shared by World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“We are doing a consultation with the unions to determine what their view is,” Gosper said. “Certainly Bernard Lapasset feels it is something that needs to be looked at and I think I share his view.”

All four of the home unions — England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales — have fielded players recently who qualified through the residency system. The South Africa-born pair of Josh Strauss and W.P. Nel have been included in Scotland’s 46-man World Cup training squad, with both becoming eligible shortly before the tournament, while the New Zealand-born Jared Payne has played several Tests in Ireland’s midfield.

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