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Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

15.44 8 Dec 2020


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Former England international Steve Thompson is among a group of ex-players suing rugby union authorities for negligence. 

The 2003 World Cup-winner and seven others claim the sport has left them with permanent brain damage.

All eight have been diagnosed with early stages of dementia, with the blame laid at repeated blows taken to the head whilst playing rugby.

In an interview with The Guardian, Thompson says he remembers nothing of England's World Cup triumph in Australia in 2003.

While working on a job, the 42-year old was being shown footage from the tournament.

"And it was as if I was watching England play now. Except I was there," he said, "But I can’t remember at all being there. Honestly, I don’t know scores from any of the games."

Much like professional football, it appears rugby is facing its own reckoning with dementia.

In recent years, tackle heights have been lowered and efforts made to protect players' heads from collisions but Thompson says it's all too late for his generation.

He says he's suffered from increased bouts of anxiety, and now often forgets his wife's name, "I could look at Steph sometimes. And she says it’s like I’m a complete blank. And she’ll go: ‘I’m Steph.’

"The name’s gone. Gone."

The BBC report that a letter of claim will be sent to the RFU and WRU, as well as World Rugby, seeking millions of euro in damages.

It's suggested a further 80 players aged between 25 and 55 are showing symptoms of dementia and are raising concerns.

Thompson is angry with the RFU in England and the Rugby Players’ Association, believing they should be doing more on behalf of players.

"I don’t want to kill the game. I want it regulated," he told The Guardian.

Thompson believes players should be made to take a brain scan before embarking on a new season.

"Every year you drive your car you get an MOT," he said, "The body’s exactly the same thing.

"If it’s not working, you shouldn’t be doing your job.

"It sounds awful, because lads are going to have to retire at 22 or 23. But trust me, it’s better finishing then than to be where I am now."

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