Graham Rowntree has said it is ‘quite unsettling’ to hear about about former England team mate Steve Thompson’s struggles with dementia.
The Munster forwards coach was speaking at a press conference ahead of Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup opener against Harlequins on Sunday, when the conversation turned to worries over concussions.
Rowntree played with Thompson for both England and the British and Irish Lions and was deeply saddened to hear of his diagnosis of early onset dementia.
The former Leicester Tigers prop admitted that he himself is now worried about suffering from past head injuries but is confident about how the sport now deals with concussion.
“It’s scary stuff, yes it is. It’s more than scary, it’s saddening. It’s quite unsettling really. I played in that era, I had concussions.
“I played alongside Steve, played against Steve, coached Steve. He’s a mate. It’s just horrible. It’s proper saddening to hear that news. What can I say?
“But what I do know – the game has moved on. The players are looked after now, in particular concussion protocols, the way the game is refereed in terms of zero tolerance for high shots, etc.
“I have every confidence in how it’s handled now. All our protocols are in place as a club and a sport, I am very confident about that. But it’s sad news.
“I think you detect how unsettling it is for a player like me who has played in that era to hear this and talk about it,” Rowntree said.
Finding the right balance in the Munster squad
The first round of the Heineken Champions Cup gets underway this weekend, only one week after the conclusion of the Autumn Nations Cup.
The Munster forwards coach admitted that the small time frame between internationals and European club rugby had made things difficult for the coaching staff.
🗞️ SQUAD UPDATE | The Munster squad gathered at the HPC this morning ahead of the weekend’s #HeinekenChampionsCup and ‘A’ Interprovincial action.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 8, 2020
“We’ve certainly had some of our longer selection meetings over the last few days because of the form of the young guys and particularly the young forwards.
“I’m not going to name-drop them all because it’s not fair, so many of them have stepped up.
“There’s no algorithm or formula, it’s just feel from what we see from the lads on the coaching field and the necessity as well with injuries and guys being away. It’s all feel,” Rowntree commented.