Saturday 18 November 2017

Time for rugby chiefs to tackle epidemic of injuries

saturday view

Sean Diffley

Ireland were the first team to inflict a defeat on the Scots in their new ground of Murrayfield way back in February 1926, when they won by a try to nil.

Despite this defeat, the Scots went on to become that season's champions.

Our Celtic cousins had vacated their old ground at Inverleith and back in the early days a huge grassy bank surrounded three-quarters of the new Murrayfield pitch. It was claimed that attendances were often around 100,000.

That Irish team in Edinburgh contained the likes of Ernie Crawford, Eugene Davy, George Stephenson, Jammie Clinch and Mark Sugden, while the wing who scored the winning try (just three points in those times) was Jack Gage, an interesting character from Queen's University.

Jack was born in South Africa's Cape province and, apart from being the architect of Scotland's first defeat at Murrayfield, he was later to be South African radio's commentator on the famous 'timeless' cricket Test in Durban.

Later Gage came to live briefly in Connemara, just a stone's throw from Pearse's cottage in Rosmuc, but found the Irish weather a trifle off-putting and returned to South Africa.

And that try in Murrayfield, famous in its day, 85 years ago? Gage explained that, though he got the ball a few yards from the Scottish line and just had to throw himself over for the score, "naturally," he subsequently added to the description.

"I tell everybody nowadays that I had a 50-yard run through a poised defence to outwit the Scots," he said.

All of which brings us tortuously to the present and the so-called 'warm-up' Test with Scotland today. The operative phrase with the World Cup looming is: avoid injuries.

Nowadays, in our physically demanding professional game, more and more players are being sidelined with various dents in the body.

Gordon Brown -- "Broon from Troon" -- writing on the subject 20 years go, said: "Rugby players generally can cause more long-term damage to themselves by continually playing with injuries than any thug whom they will encounter on the field of play will ever do to them. I only hope that some time during the next decade or so a remedy is found for arthritis."

Sadly, Brown never saw a remedy for muscular problems. He passed away in 2001 aged just 53, and not because of a rugby injury.

This plethora of injuries, this epidemic, must be of great concern to the establishment, the group that makes the rules -- the International Rugby Board, which assembles in force in New Zealand in a few weeks' time. It's a problem that won't go away and demands action to save the game and its players.

It's that vital.

Irish Independent

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