RFU yet to make contact with Steve Thompson, says CEO Bill Sweeney

Bill Sweeney has revealed the Rugby Football Union is yet to receive any legal contact from the group of former players preparing claims for negligence against rugby’s unions.

World Cup winner Steve Thompson is among a group of ex-players preparing lawsuits against the RFU, the Welsh Rugby Union, and global governing body World Rugby.

Chief executive Sweeney insisted the RFU has not yet received any legal contact over the issue, but also conceded no one at the organisation has yet spoken to former Northampton and England hooker Thompson.

Thompson is suffering early-onset dementia symptoms in his early 40s, with the former front-rower admitting he cannot remember any of England’s matches at their victorious 2003 World Cup.

“It’s important to point out that we haven’t received any formal legal approaches yet,” said Sweeney. “So all we’re knowledgeable at is what we’re reading currently in the media.

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“We don’t have any specific case or specific conditions laid out, so it’s a bit premature really and hypothetical to speculate on what’s going there.

“And we haven’t got into any detailed discussions on insurance or cover because we don’t know the nature of what’s been presented yet.”

Asked if the RFU has contacted Thompson this week, Sweeney said: “We have tried to contact him this week. Unfortunately, we had the wrong number for him to begin with, which didn’t help.

“We only found that out after 24 hours. But we have tried to contact him – unfortunately, we haven’t been able to make contact yet.

“That’s just to have a chat and see how he’s doing, but we haven’t made contact yet.”

Former England flanker Michael Lipman and ex-Wales back-rower Alix Popham are also among the group of ex-players preparing legal action.

Sweeney pledged that the RFU will remain “open and transparent” in reacting to the specific situation, but also in continuing their work to minimise concussions and improve player safety in rugby.

“It’s a very serious matter, a very serious moment for us; we all love this game,” said Sweeney. “This has been a very challenging week.

“First and foremost in these legalistic times, this is very much a human story. And we recognise what’s happening here, we recognise the difficulties the families are going through and then bringing these stories into the public.

“We applaud them for doing that, but also in the context of their motivation which is to improve the game and make it better and safer for future generations.

“We would certainly share that and take it to heart. And it’s impossible not to be moved by it.

“It’s not a time to hide, not a time to go missing; it’s really a time to be open and transparent.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re making the necessary changes, to ensure we’ve got the safest possible game across all the different levels.

“And we do take player welfare extremely seriously, I want to reassure you of that. It features in every strategic document we produce.”

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