Legal action on concussion launched by former players against governing bodies

The firm representing the players, Rylands Law, have sent a pre-action letter to World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU.

A further six former players have joined the concussion legal action launched against rugby authorities.

The law firm representing the ex-professionals have also issued a pre-action letter of claim to World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU over alleged failures to protect players from the risks of concussion.

Four of the players, which include ex-England and Wales internationals, have requested to remain anonymous. The new names to come forward, though, are 30-year-old Adam Hughes, a former Wales U20 centre and Dragons centurion whose career came to a premature end due to a brain injury in 2018 and Neil Spence (44) who represented Leicester, Gloucester and Rotherham.

Hughes has been diagnosed with having brain injuries and post-concussion symptoms, while the eight other players have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, early onset dementia and probable CTE. 

They join World Cup winner Steve Thompson, as well as Alix Popham and Michael Lipman, as the test group of players who are taking action against their former governing bodies.

The firm representing the players, Rylands Law, have sent a pre-action letter to World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU. The letter says "it is the defendants’ ongoing duty to safeguard and promote the development of the sport, having regard to the safety and best interests of players."

Rylands Law alleges that the risk of concussions and sub-concussive injuries were “known and foreseeable”, and lists what they view as 24 failures on the part of World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU. 

Richard Boardman, of Rylands Law, said that a further 30 former players had contacted the law firm in the past week and that it was already representing 100 former players ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s. 

He said: “Last week’s announcement about the condition of some of rugby’s sporting greats has sent shockwaves around the sport. Yet, for many, it was inevitable. 

“No one should underestimate the courage shown by each player in taking this action, while at the same time facing up to their own life-changing diagnosis. It continues to be a battle for them.” 

The governing bodies have a maximum of three months from the date of acknowledgement of the Letter of Claim to provide their initial responses.

The WRU released a statement on Thursday which read: "World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union can confirm they have received a letter of claim from solicitors representing certain players and will now take time to consider its contents.

"We have been deeply saddened to hear the brave personal accounts from former players.

"Rugby is a contact sport and while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, rugby takes player welfare extremely seriously and it continues to be our number one priority. As a result of scientific knowledge improving rugby has developed its approach to concussion surveillance, education, management and prevention across the whole game.

"We have implemented coach, referee and player education and best practice protocols across the game and rugby’s approach to head injury assessments and concussion protocols has been recognised and led to many other team sports adopting our guidance.

"We will continue to use medical evidence and research to keep evolving our approach. As with any potential legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of the letter."