England’s World Cup winners Phil Vickery and Mark Regan, along with former Wales star Gavin Henson, have been revealed to be among 295 former players who are taking legal action after suffering a range of symptoms they claim came from brain injuries in their careers.
After the partial lifting of an anonymity order at the Royal Courts of Justice, a list of 226 players was released on Friday evening, including a dozen England internationals and more than 30 Wales Test players. They are suing World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union over the claims.
There are now three members of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad who are suffering neurological difficulties, including former hooker Steve Thompson, who has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and has no memory of playing in the final. Vickery also started that match and went on to captain England in the 2007 final, alongside Regan.
Henson was the star of Wales 2005 Grand Slam-winning side and went on to achieve further fame in the world of celebrity, being in a relationship with the singer Charlotte Church.
Other prominent players include a host of former Lions including former Wales captains Ryan Jones and Colin Charvis, former centre Dafydd James and ex-England scrum-half Harry Ellis.
The players are claiming rugby authorities failed in their duty of care by not putting in place reasonable measures to protect their health and safety, which has led to individuals developing conditions such as motor neurone disease, early-onset dementia, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. World Rugby, the RFU and WRU strongly reject those claims.
England internationals involved in the claim include Mouritz Botha, Chris Jones, Duncan Bell, Paul Sampson, Jason Hobson, Dan Scarborough and Michael Lipman. Former All Black prop Carl Hayman and Sean Lamont, who won more than 100 caps for Scotland, with internationals from ten countries represented in the case.
The majority of the cohort are in their 30s or 40s but the youngest player listed is Joseph Cook, who played amateur rugby, at 22. The youngest professional involved is Theo Brophy-Clews, a former London Irish fly-half, who is just 26. Other players in the case have applied for anonymity.
The release of the majority of the 295 names followed a case management hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday as an application to establish a group litigation order, which would pool the individual claims into a single group action, was rejected.
The senior master in the case, Jeremy Cook, said the defendants needed access to the detailed medical records for all of the players involved on top of their diagnosis that they have symptoms consistent with brain injuries. He appeared to chastise the claimants legal team, Rylands Garth, for failing to provide the necessary medical records which means a new case management hearing will be heard in the spring of next year.
“Unless the medical records are prepared properly, we’re going to have a lot of issues,” Cook said. “The very least one needs in a case of this kind is medical records.”
A joint statement from World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU, said: “Whilst today’s case management hearing was necessarily about legal process, we must not forget about the people and players at the heart of this case.
“The further delay to the case is regrettable and the players’ lawyers seemingly prioritising media coverage over meeting their legal obligations, is challenging for all concerned; not least the players themselves.
“Player welfare is rugby’s top priority, and will continue to be our top priority. Rugby is committed to leading the welfare agenda in sport, driven by evolving science and research to protect and support players at all levels.”