Ruck and Maul: IRB still struggling to get their heads round the problem of concussion

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The Independent Online

The International Rugby Board intend to take a fresh stand against players staying on the pitch despite suffering suspected concussion, but the means are more difficult than the end. The IRB are willing to deploy independent doctors to give a ruling on players' fitness after a bang on the head, but only at World Cup matches.

On all other occasions, it appears they will require referees to make a decision while players will be encouraged generally to look after themselves (assuming they can remember the instructions at the appropriate moment). We had a chuckle in these pages last week at Chris Ashton's dialogue with an England medic during the South Africa match but the concern felt by the Irish referee, George Clancy, was very clear. Ashton collided with Victor Matfield and landed in a heap, before tottering to his feet with the aid of two England staff, who allowed him to play on. Clancy was heard over the referee microphone saying: "Come on... he was nearly asleep there. He's slurring his words. He's got to go." A year and a half since Harlequins' disastrous efforts at bending the blood-bin substitution rules, the vexed question of who should decide when a player is genuinely hurt remains unresolved.



Moseley left out in the cold

Moseley will have another crack at staging their Championship match with Bedford on Tuesday evening, after two postponements due to a frozen pitch. The irony is that Moseley, who have a 3G rubber-crumb artificial training pitch next door to the first team's grass surface at Billesley Common, has become a valued venue for other teams in cold weather. England's Under-18 trials were switched there last winter, as was an A-team match between Sale and Gloucester. And Birmingham City's footballers have used it for training. The artificial surface is of IRB regulation quality and dimensions and is fit for league rugby but, with no spectator facilities, any crowd numbering more than a hundred would have to peer at the game through a chain-link fence.



No stopping Channel-hopping

England's assertion that they will select foreign-based players in "exceptional circumstances" may be enough to put off any challenge – on grounds of restraint of trade – to the policy of favouring the stay-at-homes in future. Still, the number of cash-fuelled moves to France or elsewhere looks unlikely to decrease. A new TV contract has further boosted French clubs' spending power, with the Wales fly-half James Hook reportedly having been offered €58,000 (£48,500) a month to play for Perpignan. Other top names who have been linked with the Top 14 – most in the now customary exodus after the World Cup – include Lee Byrne, Matt Giteau, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Regan King and Mils Muliaina. The Toulon XV to face London Irish today has five English players (to Irish's eight) but significantly Jonny Wilkinson, Paul Sackey, Dean Schofield, Joe El Abd and Kris Chesney are all over 30 years old and therefore comparatively expendable. The alarm bells will ring with England if players lower down the age range start Channel-hopping.



hughgodwin@yahoo.co.uk

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