Progressive Rugby Group

*World Rugby Responds to Progressive Rugby Group’s Open Letter on Player Welfare: Jamie Cudmore Part of Leadership Group*

Jamie Cudmore and James Haskell are at the head of a new lobby group called Progressive Rugby according to this article in the Guardian.

The open letter from the Progressive Rugby lobby group is appended below, as is the World Rugby response.

The key recommendations include reducing injury risk, player welfare, concussion management and post-retirement welfare.

from World Rugby

World Rugby statement in response to Progressive Rugby group player welfare proposals

The welfare of the global rugby family is, and has always been, World Rugby’s priority. We take our responsibility very seriously and care deeply about our past, present and future players.

That is why we ensure that players are at the heart of our discussions through International Rugby Players, and that is why we value and welcome constructive debate, respect opinions and listen to suggestions that advance welfare.

We are progressive, which is why as scientific and medical knowledge and societal understanding continues to evolve, rugby evolves with it. We are always guided by medical and scientific consensus to inform our concussion education, prevention and management strategies.

Clearly these members of our rugby family love the game and want it to be the best it can be. We do too. We are encouraged that the group are championing a number of initiatives that are already operational or being considered and we are open to constructive discussions with them regarding their proposals.

from Progressive Rugby

An open letter to Sir Bill Beaumont,
Chairman of World Rugby
Dear Sir Bill,

RE: Brain Trauma in Rugby Union

We write in response to your open letter to the rugby community on 17 December 2020.

This letter is a collaborative effort led by a new alliance of progressive voices in the game under the title ‘Progressive Rugby’.

This group includes representatives from all echelons of the game – players, coaches, match officials, club representatives, sports doctors and senior members of the teaching profession.

Both the content and sentiments of your open letter are acknowledged. However, we consider in view of the evidence of risk for traumatic brain injuries occurring in Rugby Union that more should be done to protect the rugby-playing community from the dangers of injury and that World Rugby has a moral and legal duty to minimise risk and to inform players and parents of the risk of brain damage from repeated knocks.

Evidence of the existence of brain disorders in retired players supports the contention that participation in Rugby Union can cause brain damage. The awareness of the association with traumatic brain injury and participation in Rugby Union is of paramount importance for both the players and the sport itself.

We believe that this issue is the greatest threat to the worldwide game.

Set out below are changes we argue World Rugby should facilitate to our game as a matter of urgency. These are set out in the following categories:

Reducing Injury Risk
Prophylactic Player Welfare
Concussion Management
Post-retirement Welfare
Access for All

This list is not exhaustive, but more a launching pad towards a safer, more sustainable game. Where appropriate, we have prepared preliminary costings for these proposed changes to show that we are sensitive to the practicalities involved.

Reducing Injury Risk


Limit on contact in training


The ruck to be refereed as set down in the laws of the game
Straight put in at the scrum
Tackle area: review of ‘double teaming’ tackles; upper level of tackle height; timely release of ball following the tackle
Limiting substitutes for injury only


Careful control of workload in training
Limit to the number of annual international matches for players

Prophylactic Player Welfare

Career health passport for players
Health MOTs pre-season and at end of career (to be included into ‘passports’)
Central World Rugby Concussion database for incorporation into ‘passports’
Increased education at all levels of head injuries and concussion management

Concussion Management


To always include an independent ‘broad church’ of experts to appraise current research, risks, and protocols


Training ground protocols and access to experienced assessment should be equivalent to game time


Extension of the minimum number of days before ‘Return To Play’ to at least three weeks
Mandatory comprehensive screening as in other sports after recurrent concussions


Review of minimal clinical experience (additional to educational courses) to be present pitch side

Post-retirement Welfare

Concussion Fund to be established by World Rugby
Ownership of Player Passport (see above)
Establishing a more empathetic relationship with insurers

Access for All

Each national Union to be responsible for developing databases of medical specialists able to provide appropriate assessment and advice post-concussion (Public and Private Practice)

Training packages to teach safe tackling techniques for young players

We firmly support the core physicality that comes with an 80-minute game of rugby union and understand that the game cannot be turned back to a ‘rose-tinted’ memory of the pre-professional game. Our backing extends to maintaining tackling in schoolboy rugby. However, the above proposed changes are essential to ensure the survival of the game in terms of long-term player welfare and playing numbers at all levels.

Whilst we acknowledge the importance of continuing well-constructed longitudinal prospective research, the rapidly accumulating anecdotal evidence has reached a point that the answer is to err on the side of caution. The alternative is to ‘kick the can down the road’ for future generations of administrators to deliberate upon.

The NFL has metamorphosed from a sport in denial to a proactive organisation with initiatives like concussion funding and changing protocols to the game, such as the regulation of contact in training, concussion spotters and a concussion tent at each game.

Despite the current negativity surrounding the game, there is an opportunity for rugby to turn the page and follow the example of our American cousins. The current and future generations of players require urgent action to be assured that they will be adequately protected and cared for.

As a next step, we request a chance to speak – as team-mates, not as opponents – with senior figures at World Rugby to discuss how we can work together to get control of this issue that threatens the very future of our game.

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