Big hitter: England centre Brad Barritt sustained a heavy blow to the head in a collision with Quade Cooper Photo: PA
Injuries during autumn series underline problem as a former IRB doctor warns that commercial incentives means players are under pressure to play
A sharp intake of breath reverberated around Twickenham immediately after that dull thud rang out when Brad Barritt clashed heads with Quade Cooper in the 78th minute of England’s victory against Australia. The Australian replacement seemed to lose consciousness instantly while Barritt, who had already been taken to the blood bin, was cut open again and dazed.
In that same passage of play, Mike Brown, the England full-back, and George Kruis, the replacement lock, were left motionless on the ground after their own awkward collisions. Kruis was taken off for a head-injury assessment while Brown saw out the final seconds. If the game had gone on much longer, it might have ended as a sevens match. Sadly that scene is not unique. Seven days previously four Ireland players had sustained concussions in quick succession against Australia.
The camera later panned to Barritt, who made 18 tackles, on the replacements’ bench, blood spattered all over his shirt and right eye welling shut. It would have been easy to mistake his profile for that of a boxer having gone 12 brutal rounds or a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. At least in boxing and MMA, there are sanctioned stand-down periods between bouts; in rugby the bell rings for another bruising encounter almost straight away.