Dan Robson was meters away from Jack Wills when his Wasps teammate was stretched off last weekend.
The scrum-half helped create Willis' second-half try as England extended their lead against Italy, but joy quickly turned to despair as Robson was close to the 24-year-old when his cries of pain filled Twickenham.
Willis had been ‘crocodile rolled’ out of the breakdown by Italy’s Seb Negri, and at the time, his knee appeared to buckle. Since the event, it has emerged the back-row has not suffered a second ACL rupture, but according to his Wasps head coach Lee Blackett, he is set for a significant spell on the touchline.
Throughout this week, pundits, coaches and players alike have been grilled on their thoughts and feelings surrounding the method of clearing out, with former Fiji Sevens coach, Ben Ryan, leading the charge to ban the ‘crocodile roll’ due to the risk of injury.
Player welfare has been an increased topic in recent months. In December, a number of former professional players combined to take legal action against World Rugby, the RFU and WRU over alleged failure to protect them from the risks associated with concussion.
Earlier this week, former internationals James Haskell and Jamie Cudmore launched Progressive Rugby, a lobby group that hopes to implement changes and protect players from the potentially life-threatening consequences that occur due to repeated concussive and sub-concussive injury.
Listen to Brian Moore's Full Contact podcast: After the shocking injury to England's @jackswillis7, former Fiji 7's coach @benjaminryan tells @brianmoore666 it's time for rugby's lawmakers to enforce changes at the breakdown https://t.co/Y3sLmumhmk pic.twitter.com/aj542DwCfH— Telegraph Rugby (@TelegraphRugby) February 15, 2021
In the past seven days, Robson has seen his current teammate sustain an injury, which the scrum-half describes as ‘the worst moment’ during his time on the rugby pitch, and he has also witnessed his former colleague James Haskell launch a campaign to tackle the issues surrounding concussion.
For the 28-year-old, he says the matter is very much out of his hands as a rugby player.
“It definitely comes to your attention when you see an injury like that, or you see a head injury,” Robson told TRU. “You always kind of have that thing in the back of your head thinking; could there be more done?
“I think there can always be a little more done, but for us as players at the minute, there is not a lot that we can do. While we are in this kind of bubble, we have just got to get on with it. It is for the higher powers to make those decisions on the rucking technique or the types of head injury there are.
“It is always tough to see, but for us as players, the more you think about it and the more it is in the back of your mind going into the weekend, that is sometimes when injuries happen because you go into things half-heartedly and you are not quite on it and that is when injuries happen as well because you are not fully in the moment.”
In many ways, it is this mindset that is perhaps most crucial to a professional sportsperson. As much as they may not want to get injured, they must throw themselves into every aspect of the game.
Progressive Rugby is a new lobby group wanting safety changes in Rugby Union. They're calling for more protection for players from the life-threatening consequences of head traumas and repeated concussions. @jameshaskell explains the reforms that the lobby group is looking for pic.twitter.com/CQYtLAvlpA— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) February 18, 2021
For example in rugby, this is every tackle, every kick-chase, every ruck and so on. Added to this, by definition, rugby is a contact sport and each time a player steps onto the field, they are essentially accepting the inherent risks associated with the game.
Whilst England’s players have had some brief time away from The Lensbury after nearly 20 days in a bio-secure bubble, Robson and his teammates have hardly let themselves be consumed by the issues surrounding the sport on a regular basis.
Back in camp now, Robson says he and the other 27 players that make up Eddie Jones’ squad must embrace the challenge ahead of them.
After two rounds of the Six Nations, England sit third in the table, three points adrift of France and Wales in first and second, respectively.
“We’re going out there at the minute, playing for England,” Robson said. It is a massive privilege that we have got anyway, but especially in these circumstances. We have just talked about it as a team, especially in the last week or so.
“We have got to make every minute and every moment count because we don’t know when this is going to end for any individual or us as a team collectively. So, just make the most of it, go out there and enjoy it and really try and make everyone at home as happy as possible and try to put smiles on faces.”