Our sport’s physical and social benefits far outweigh its dangers, says RW’s Owain Jones in the May edition of Rugby World
Allyson Pollock, professor of public health research and policy at Queen Mary University of London, is meddling with our game.
For the second time in four years she is openly questioning the sport’s existence with a report, ‘Should We Ban Rugby?’, claiming it is too brutal. She is determined to see rugby’s physical nature checked, particularly in the mini game.
That children are owed a duty of care is unquestioned. I regularly take my six-year-old son to tag rugby, where contact is negligible and only introduced at U9 level, when youngsters are ready for the rough and tumble, which they enjoy so much. Compare that to my youth in South Wales. At six, I’d already (accidentally, I hasten to add) had two teeth knocked out by a rogue ankle-high Patrick boot during a full-contact game.
My point is that rugby is evolving into a safer game. At elite level, it’s true, collisions can be wince-inducing, and I’ll admit I have fleeting concerns about my son’s safety pursuing rugby as a pastime, but any such doubts are far outweighed by the sport’s benefits.
It is also unfair singling out rugby. There is an element of risk with most sports. Is Professor Pollock calling for a ban on skiing, cycling, cricket, horse riding, football or, that perennial favourite, boxing? I think not.
What overrides any worries is what rugby gives you. Physical fitness is dropping at an alarming rate amongst this generation of children – a recent study said they are a whole lap slower around four laps of the school pitch than the generation that has preceded them.
And the merits go way beyond the physical. Rugby increases a child’s sociability and sense of fair play, engenders respect, self-confidence and the ability to work as a team. Win or lose, you are taught to pick yourself back up out of the mud and try again.
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These are important lessons for life in general and the life-changing injuries which some players suffer are still extremely rare among the 6.6 million registered players in 119 countries.
If Pollock travelled the UK, I’m sure she would hear the same argument for protecting the sport we love so much.