Bernard Jackman was no superstar, his inconsistent lineout throwing arguably the factor that restricted him to nine Irish caps, writes Alan Pearey. Yet, like many a pro, the Leinster hooker went way beyond the call of duty in a bid to win matches, putting his battered body on the line at the risk of long-term damage to his health.

Playing while concussed has long been an open secret in rugby, but Jackman’s revelation that he was sparko 20 times in his final three years, and once spent weeks locked in a darkened room after a kick-off collision at Connacht, is shocking. Players often duck the cognitive tests used to evaluate concussion and the inescapable, though unstated, conclusion is that it will take a death to force rugby to mend its ways.

If concussion is one theme (and there are tales of training-ground punches that sent Denis Leamy and Ryan Caldwell into spasm), then the broken promises of Michael Cheika is another. Indeed, the then Leinster coach’s upbeat messages to Jackman as the author fought against headaches, stingers and shot knees during the 2009-10 season, only for Jackman to spend most of the time on the bench, become almost farcical. The low point came when Cheika wouldn’t let Jackman quit – “I decide when you retire!” he told him – but the player got his watch and engraved cuff links in the end, and has now embarked on a coaching career and a Masters at UCD.


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This article appeared in the January 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine

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