SIR CLIVE WOODWARD: It makes me indescribably sad that Steve Thompson cannot remember our World Cup triumph… I completely support players who are taking legal action over brain damage
- Steve Thompson’s diagnosis of early onset dementia left me feeling distressed
- Players who are taking action over brain damage in rugby have my full support
- They are doing this for themselves but also players past, present and future
- It makes me incredibly sad that Steve cannot recall our World Cup win in 2003
- Players need to be protected – the decision must be taken out of their hands
I am saddened and distressed to learn of the difficult and no doubt scary time Steve Thompson and his family are experiencing. The thought that blows to the head he suffered playing rugby could have contributed to this is incredibly upsetting.
The same applies to all the other players whose stories we are beginning to learn about and I wholeheartedly support the action they are taking.
I have always considered myself a player first, not a coach, and the action they are taking is not just for themselves but players past, present and future.
I was extremely saddened to learn of Steve Thompson’s early on-set dementia diagnosis
I can recall too many occasions from my playing days in which players took blows with no concussion protocols in place. I was once so dazed I forgot I was a player and took a seat in the stands alongside the supporters.
As a coach I was fortunate to have a sensational group of players and Steve, a model professional, was one such player. He took the position of hooker to new heights in terms of skill, lineout execution and conditioning. He was the best hooker in the world when we arrived in Australia in 2003.
Jonny Wilkinson’s wonderful drop goal is considered the defining moment but it all started with Steve launching a 20-yard lineout throw under pressure. That helped make Jonny’s drop goal possible.
It makes me indescribably sad to learn that Steve cannot remember it — a monumental moment that he worked so hard for and executed so brilliantly.
I fully support any player who is seeking to take legal action for brain damage in their careers
I can recall too many occasions where players took blows with no concussion protocols
I take great pride in a special group of players, our remarkable coaching team and a medical team who I have no doubt were the best in the world.
Our mission was to become the fittest team on the planet and we encouraged the squad to be completely honest with us regarding their health. The medics also monitored players closely because they are sometimes too brave for their own good.
Dr Simon Kemp led that team. I believe we were the first country to have a full-time qualified GP on our coaching roster and he is leading the case for head injury reform in World Rugby.
Thompson’s revelation that he cannot remember our famous win is incredibly sad – he played a huge role in making Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal possible
When the transition from the amateur era to professional arrived, a constant sub-plot of my time as England coach was the club v country stand-off. At the heart of that issue was the players’ welfare.
They were, and always have been, caught in the middle. While playing for England was the ultimate dream, selection is never guaranteed and a three-year club contract is their primary income. Players are fiercely loyal to their clubs and on returning from international duty they feel indebted to them, possibly playing when they shouldn’t, nursing an injury or downplaying a knock.
It is why the decision must be taken out of the hands of players and coaches. Players must be protected, and, now more than ever, they must be listened to and supported by science and the game itself.