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Bill Beaumont: "Player welfare is - and always has been - our number one priority"

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has stated that player welfare is the top priority at every level of rugby, after it emerged that a group of former players were to sue over head injuries suffered during their careers.

Beaumont released an open letter yesterday addressing the concerns of former and current rugby stars, who fear that research indicating a link between head injuries and neurodegenerative diseases is not being take seriously by rugby's authorities.

The debate heated up this week when a group of former players, including Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson, wrote a letter of claim to World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

The World Rugby chairman, who himself was forced into retirement through medical advice after a successful career, which saw him become England captain, empathised with the players but assured them that everything was being done to secure a safer future for the sport.

"My thoughts are with them and anyone in the rugby family who is struggling," started Beaumont.

"I want to reassure every member of the rugby family that player welfare is - and always has been – our number one priority at all levels of the game.

"As a player who retired on medical advice in the early 1980s, I care deeply about the welfare of all players. They are the heartbeat of our sport and we work tirelessly to protect them."

Whilst not discussing the letter received on Thursday specifically, Beaumont appeared to disagree with the notion that rugby does not go far enough in protecting its players, when he claimed that they are "at the forefront of evidence-based concussion education, prevention and management in sport."

Beaumont added: “Both the game and the level of player care and welfare have evolved significantly since my playing days and, while we are never complacent, I have witnessed first-hand how advances in science and medicine have informed our protection of players.

“Today, as a parent and a grandparent, I believe the safeguards in rugby are in place. As an administrator, I will continue to lead on safety and do all I can to maintain the confidence and wellbeing of those who love playing the game.

“The world benefits from and needs the positive social value of sport. As societal mental health issues rise, I believe the rugby community can play a significant role in helping individuals feel they belong and contribute to something positive as part of a team.

Author: Jake Wilkin