Find out what Test stars think about workload, concussion, money, agents and international rugby
What the players think about rugby’s biggest issues: CONCUSSION
There has rightly been an increased focus on head injuries in recent years and there is undoubtedly far more awareness of the issue. Yet this survey proves there is still work to do, with nearly a third of players admitting they’ve hidden symptoms in order to progress through the ‘return to play’ protocols after suffering a concussion. “These decisions need to be taken out of the hands of players,” says Omar Hassanein.
Players have raised further concerns about the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocols. One player said: “It needs to be changed. The list of word recalls needs to be increased because the same list of words are being used and doesn’t properly evaluate recall.”
Also, while 84% of those surveyed feel medical staff follow the HIA process to the letter of the law, others have shined a spotlight on the pressure exerted on medics – much like the pressure players themselves feel when not fully fit.
“Some allow players to get back to playing before they are fully recovered, sometimes due to pressure from clubs to perform,” said one. A second added: “Scared of head coaches, they sometimes move you through the HIA return to play faster than required.”
Related: Rugby World concussion investigation
Measures to reduce the risk of players suffering head injuries have been introduced, such as the increased sanctions for high and dangerous tackles. Yet this has caused controversy of its own, with people, including some current players, bemoaning the game ‘going soft’ and questioning certain decisions as well as a lack of consistency in decisions and bans.
“Players need to understand that the laws and rules are in place to protect us,” says Ireland full-back Rob Kearney. “To ensure players’ safety is the upmost priority. If someone gets a shoulder in the head, regardless of how it happens, players will be penalised for that. Players need to accept that.”
What the players think about rugby’s biggest issues: AGENTS
The majority of players use agents, with most paying between 5-8% of their contracts to their agent rather than a set fee. One of the problems raised by players in the survey was their agents not stepping in to help with any difficulties at their clubs, with one citing “a lack of support for any issues at a club”.
Another player focused on some agents’ self-interest in negotiating transfers, commenting: “Agents get paid more for sending players overseas. They don’t have the national interest at heart. Young players are moved around for agent profits, not always beneficial to the player.”
Ex-All Black Conrad Smith is working with International Rugby Players and World Rugby to introduce global regulations around player agents and set up a global registration programme to ensure they are required to meet certain standards.
With regards young players, Smith wants to ensure there are rules around the minimum age that an agent can sign a player. He says: “Some national regulations need a player to be 18, others are 16, but as a general point no contract should be binding for longer than a year or two.
“If a player goes really well after signing their first contract, we don’t want them to be bound or to be tied to an agent for the next ten years after they have signed at 18.”