Eddie Jones believes rugby has learned from past mistakes and is now a safe sport after recent revelations of early onset dementia in players.
On Tuesday, The Guardian revealed that eight former rugby players are potentially taking legal action against the sport after suffering from dementia at a young age.
That group includes Steve Thompson, who won the World Cup with England in 2003, but cannot remember the tournament due to early onset dementia.
The England head coach was speaking with the ‘How To Academy’ and expressed the belief that rugby has done a good job in lowering the chances of head injuries.
“Firstly it is very sad news but I think if there is a positive about it – and there is never a positive about people being sick or losing part of their function – it is that the game has adjusted to it.
“I don’t think that the game at the moment is unsafe. If you look at most sports back then it was unsafe,” Jones said.
Would @EnglandRugby coach Eddie Jones #taketheknee? And what are his thoughts on the recent controversy around Swing Low Sweet Chariot? @MatthewStadlen asked him on Tues night in a How To Academy livestream event. pic.twitter.com/gbC1x60qsc
— How To Academy (@howtoacademy) December 10, 2020
‘In the old days it was a bit of a laugh’
Thompson spoke about the apathetic attitude in the early days of professionalism which many players and coaches took towards heady injuries and potential concussions.
The former England and Northampton Saints hooker explained how damaging a regular training session could be, in which players would be knocked out and resume training shortly afterwards.
“In the old days it was a bit of a laugh. If someone got whacked in the head, it was: ‘Oh, look at him, he’s had a belt. He’ll be up in a minute.’
“The amount of head bangs I had in training. I was known for it. ‘Oh, he’s having a little sleep, he’ll get up in a minute,’” Thompson explained.
Jones agrees that players weren’t well looked after back in the early 2000s but believes that rugby now priorities players’ wellbeing.
“Now we have learned from that and I think rugby at the moment is leading the way in terms of player safety. Can we make it safer? Can we make it better for the players? We have just to keep doing it,” Jones said.