A message from Sevenoaks Rugby Club, 4 March 2016

Sevenoaks Rugby Club's Management Team has followed with interest the move by a group of academics, chief medical officers and children's commissioners to propose banning contact rugby up to Under 18, and we felt it important to make a statement to members, parents, supporters and doubters as to where we stand. 

There are injury risks in most sports, and as a Club we ensure that our coaches are well trained in coaching rugby safely throughout our Junior (and senior) section. For instance, players are shown how to tackle and be tackled, scrummage, ruck and maul in ways that minimise the risk of injury when engaged in these contact aspects of our sport. 

We do not see the possibility of injury as a reason for children to stop playing sport. We do want all parents of players and by extension every player to know the risks and to that extent welcome the spotlight, if not the lobby movement to ban rugby as we know it at Junior level. 

Our view, and naturally it's a partial one, is that the specific techniques, life skills and values that rugby instills in young people far outweigh the risk of injury, albeit any player and their family who has suffered long-term injuries from rugby may not share that view. 

The physical aspects and attendant skills required in rugby are without doubt part of its appeal, in a controlled environment where the spirit in which the game is played, respect shown to referees and the camaraderie between opponents is not matched in any other sport.

I encourage any parent concerned by the article to the extent that they would re-consider the involvement of their child/children in rugby, to speak with our Junior Chairman Mike Wooldridge, or the head coach of their year group. We really do welcome such discussions and if as a consequence we lose players to the sport, that's a better conclusion to be drawn than harbouring worries about whether or not you are doing the right thing in encouraging children to play rugby.

Sevenoaks Rugby Club always has and always will put safety first.

Asked to comment on the article, ex Academy Manager, former junior age group coach and now 1st XV manager Jon Muchmore said: “The hard hitting physical game you see on television or even the senior game you see at Knole Paddock most Saturdays is totally different from the game the junior rugby teams play. Just as nobody bowls at 90mph in U10s cricket, the junior rugby match is invariably based around hands, speed and tactical discipline.
“It is a holistic game that challenges players both physically and mentally. Every aspect of the game explores the need to work with, trust and rely on team mates. With that reliance comes friendship, a bond that inextricably links individuals like no other sport comes close to doing.
I have been fortunate enough to play a wide range of sports to a reasonable level and nothing comes close to matching the bonds I have forged in rugby. The confidence I gained from the game helped me both at school and in my later career changed my life.

“If there was no contact in the game I would have been consigned to the rejected pile of the mildly lardy who have feet for hands-it’s crucial that there is a place for players of all shapes and sizes in rugby, especially in this age of child obesity and electronic games.”

But what do the children think?

Sevenoaks member and former England International Tom May, writing in The Huffington Post, states that children of all ages that he coaches throughout the country, when asked, invariably say that the contact is what they love about rugby.

They say that it teaches you to stand up and be counted, look your opponent in the eye, and even if you lose that particular battle, to dust yourself off and do better next time.

Not a bad philosophy for negotiating life’s rich tapestry?
On a personal note, I consider by far my greatest achievement, challenge and enjoyment in life is being a parent, and I believe a parent’s fundamental role is to equip children for life, not to insulate them from it. 

Trevor Nicholson
Sevenoaks Rugby

Table 1.Comparative concussion rates presented at the
2012 Sports Concussion Consensus Conference

Sport / Concussion rate per 1000 player hours
Horse racing (Amateur) 95.2
Horse racing (Jumps) 25.0
Horse racing (Flat) 17.1
Boxing (professional) 13.2
Australian football (professional) 4.2
Rugby union (professional) 3.9
Ice Hockey (NHL) 1.5
Rugby union (amateur) 1.2
Soccer football (FIFA) 0.4
NFL football (NFL) 0.2