Ex-Warrior speaks out on rugby injuries probe

Darrell Goulding in action for Wigan Warriors
Darrell Goulding in action for Wigan Warriors

A FORMER Wigan Warriors star who had to retire through injury doesn’t believe there is much else that can be done to protect players in either rugby code without wrecking them as a spectacle.

Darrell Goulding was speaking after rugby union’s top medic called for tighter restrictions to prevent so many stars coming to harm, especially from concussion.

We play rugby and we know the dangers. I am at a stage now where I feel better than I have done in years now I’ve finished! But you get used to the knocks

Darrell Goulding

Reported concussions in RU have doubled in five years and Dr Martin Rafferty said on average one player at every Six Nations match suffered a brain injury. He says that changes to the game must focus on tackles.

And while supporters and players of the two codes revel in their differences, there is clearly an overlap when it comes to injuries.

Goulding, 27, was forced to retire from his beloved rugby league after several seasons with Wigan (during which time he helped win the double) and one with Hull KR. Repetitive concussion injuries meant it was too dangerous to continue and so he is now planning to train as a physio.

But while he regrets a playing career cut short, he feels the authorities in both codes are limited in what they can tinker with.

The former centre said: “We play rugby and we know the dangers. I am at a stage now where I feel better than I have done in years now I’ve finished! But you get used to the knocks.

“And there will be a lot of injuries, more so in rugby league. There is less money in it so you have smaller squads so you are more likely to have people playing who are already carrying an injury.

“The game is getting tougher and faster too in both codes. And the players are getting bigger and stronger.

“I think there are only so many things you can do to prevent injuries as far as tackles are concerned. Shoulder charges have recently been banned in RL but there has to be contact, some of it quite powerful. That’s the nature of the game and it’s what the fans want.

“One thing they could do is reduce the number of subs. That would reduce the possibility of big guys coming off the bench and injuring someone who has been out there all game and is tiring.”

The Rugby Union World Cup has already seen a number of players sidelined through injury, not least the Welsh squad.

Speaking on last night’s BBC Panorama programme, Dr Rafferty, World Rugby’s chief medical officer, said: “Player welfare is about identifying what the risk is and then bringing about change. There’s no doubt that the biggest area that we know where concussion is going to occur is in the tackle, so that will help us to look at the tackle and see what we can do to make it safer.

“My job is to identify risk and then look for solutions and then present those solutions to the law-makers to make the changes that will bring about protection of the athlete.”

Dr Rafferyy is reviewing video evidence from 900 concussions in an attempt to identify why the injuries occur.

Any possible changes to the laws would be based on this analysis.

That evidence and any recommendations would be presented to the governing body’s Laws Committee which would then take a final decision.

One option that has been suggested for reform of the tackle is changing the rules to encourage players to tackle lower on the body of their opponent.