Ex-Welsh international Alix Popham on a crusade against dangerous acts

To more fairly punish repeated faults in rugby, the former third line of Wales Alix Popham, affected by a brain disease following a succession of concussions, proposes a system of “permit points”, in a interview with AFP.

“The security (of the players, editor’s note) is certainly not ensured to the maximum”, he denounced, questioned by telephone about the suspension for four matches imposed on the opening half of the XV of the Rose, Owen Farrel.

The red card awarded to Farrell for a dangerous tackle on Welshman Taine Basham last month was reversed and later commuted to a four-match suspension on appeal. This means that the English opener will only miss the first two matches of the World Cup (September 8 – October 28), having already served two of his four suspension matches during preparation matches in August.

“Pulling someone’s head off only deserves a four-match ban. All because the World Cup is approaching. It’s insane and it does not pass, ”hammered the former international.

Popham, who has 33 appearances in the Welsh jersey between 2003 and 2008 and two appearances at the World Cup, was diagnosed three years ago with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), when he was only 40 years.

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease that can occur in people with a history of multiple head injuries.

The Welshman is part of a group of former internationals, including ex-England hooker Steve Thompson, who have brought collective action against World Rugby, but also against the English and Welsh federations.

– Inconsistency –

Many rugby players – and other disciplines – have revealed to suffer from neurological disorders (permanent brain damage, early dementia, post-traumatic epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, depression, etc.) caused by repeated shocks during their career.

“A guy takes ten weeks for a tackle in the head and a week later, a red card for Farrell is demoted to yellow and it’s the outcry on X (formerly Twitter, editor’s note)”, explains to AFP the Welshman , criticizing the lack of consistency of the disciplinary decisions taken.

“It’s not a good signal for children,” he regrets.

The former third line offers an original solution to punish repeat offenders, like Farrell, and deter others.

“I think there should be a points system like for the driving license, he explains. If a player runs up a nine-point deficit, he should receive a six-month suspension.

“It would work, as it has certainly worked to deter people from speeding and other traffic offences,” he said.

– Boxing as an example –

Popham, who first noticed something was wrong in 2019 when he got completely lost on a bike ride near his home, believes players’ wellbeing is not on the cards at the top of the concerns of rugby authorities.

“More should be done for activities outside matches, because 95% of the damage inflicted is in training (…) It is a matter of common sense to reduce contact in training”, adds- he, citing the example of boxing.

“I don’t understand how a rugby player can be concussed one week and play the next, while a boxer is forced to rest for several weeks or even months,” protests Popham.

“The rules (such as the HIA concussion protocol, editor’s note) are not adapted, he denounces again.

A tireless activist, he will leave London on September 19, with a group of 40 other cyclists, including the winner of the 2018 Tour de France Geraint Thomas, to rally Lyon, before the match between Wales and Australia scheduled for five days more. late and counting for group C.

In order to give ever more visibility to his fight.



© 2023 AFP

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