Clarke's 'indefinite' absence ominous reminder of rugby's toll
YOU read between the lines of skipper Craig Clarke's continuing absence from the Connacht team and a shiver runs down the spine for what it re-iterates about professional rugby's toll on the human body.
The New Zealander is on an "indefinite" lay-off having, according to Connacht coach Pat Lam, picked up his 10th concussion of the last 22 months, most of them apparently accumulated in Super 14 rugby with the Chiefs.
His story carries echoes of Bernard Jackman's last days with Leinster and the Carlow man's growing susceptibility to head injuries that left him seeing stars.
Jackman reckoned that he might have endured anything up to 20 concussions during his latter years as a rugby pro, telling this column once: "It got to the stage where, if I had a pillow fight my kids, I could have ended up concussed!"
There is some dispute about the exact arithmetic of Clarke's concussions (his previous employers disputing the figures), but none about the game's duty of care to now protect him from long-term danger.
It may gall some that Connacht's three-year investment in the New Zealand lock suddenly looks dubious, but hurt pride is small price to pay for a man's health.