Players' union insists on role in restructuring game

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The Independent Online

The players' union chief executive, Damian Hopley, has demanded his organisation be given more recognition after a poll of its members revealed serious concerns about the game.

The survey, conducted by Mori, revealed that issues such as the length of the current season, an increase in the severity of injuries and a lack of influence over the way the season is structured are among the top concerns for professional players in England.

Hopley insists that the Professional Rugby Players' Association now has a strong enough mandate to be taken seriously. And he believes that by listening to the players' opinions a solution can be found to the ongoing squabbling between the Premiership clubs and the Rugby Football Union.

"Today is all about the PRA making a robust demand to be included in the right structures for our sport to continue to succeed at both club and international level," Hopley said.

The results of the poll, to which 398 of England's 545 professional players responded, revealed genuine concerns among the players over what they believe to be an increase in the severity of injuries in the professional game.

Eight out of 10 players surveyed think the severity of injuries is increasing and Hopley believes it is time for measures to be taken to address these concerns. "This is a shocking statistic and we are working very hard to bring these figures down," he said.

"We are seeing a real sea change amongst players this year who are growing increasingly despondent when they look at the season that is being presented to them. A lot of it [reducing injuries] is based around training methods and better player management."

The PRA chairman and Bath prop, David Barnes, added that steps must be taken to prevent players being pressured into playing when not fully fit and to increase awareness of the dangers of playing when injured.

"I've played [professional rugby] for just over 10 years and the intensity has definitely increased," Barnes said. "The PRA are in the process of appointing an independent medical adviser that could be used in certain circumstances if a player feels they are unfit to play."