Irish players sue World Rugby and IRFU over repeated concussion injuries

David Corkery in action during squad training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Garda R.F.C., Westmanstown, Lucan, Dublin - Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images
David Corkery in action during squad training. Ireland Rugby Squad Training, Garda R.F.C., Westmanstown, Lucan, Dublin - Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Three former Irish players have begun legal action against the Irish Rugby Football Union and World Rugby after suffering concussions throughout their playing careers.

Former Ireland internationals David Corkery and Declan Fitzpatrick, along with Ben Marshall, initiated legal proceedings in the High Court in Dublin on Wednesday. The three players are being represented by Maguire McLafferty LLP, a Dublin law firm.

Corkery, 49, made 27 appearances for Ireland between 1994 and 1999 and played at the 1995 Rugby World Cup. His legal case is against Munster Rugby, the IRFU and World Rugby.

In an interview with RugbyPass earlier this year, Corkery said: “Sleep is a struggle... some of the results that have come back have not been great. I really worry about it, the head. When I played, I had no respect for my body. I got knocked out. I woke up and a few seconds later I was playing again. That’s not right. That shouldn’t have been the case.

“We are obliged to be careful because the brain is so delicate. It gives me shivers when I see the hits in the modern game. I got so many concussions, I lost count. I’ve suffered from depression for years. The black dog is always in the corner, ready to bark. It is a question nagging away at me all the time. Anxiety, you read about what has happened to the NFL players. My depression, is it related to those head injuries? I don’t know.”

Fitzpatrick, 39, retired after a series of concussions in 2015 and won seven caps for Ireland between 2012 and 2013. His case is against Ulster Rugby, the IRFU and World Rugby.

Marshall, 32, played for Connacht and Leinster between 2010 and 2017 before being forced to retire. His case is against Connacht Rugby, Leinster Rugby, the IRFU and World Rugby.

'I got knocked out. I woke up and a few seconds later I was playing again'

An IRFU statement read: "People in rugby have been moved by the personal accounts of former players as reported in the media. Player welfare is of paramount importance to the IRFU and we are constantly reviewing safety protocols for all players.

"Our approach, based on scientific evidence, involves a commitment to ongoing education, monitoring and application of safety protocols across the game, including proactively managing elite player game time with a focus on injury prevention and oversight.

"As this is a legal matter it would be inappropriate to comment on these cases directly, which will now be handled by our insurers."

The trio become the first players in Ireland to launch legal action against the governing body, following a precedent set in England and Wales earlier this year when a class action was brought by law firm Rylands against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union in England and the Welsh Rugby Union by a number of former players who are now suffering from early on-set dementia.

Former England hooker Steve Thompson and former Wales captain Ryan Jones among the claimants, in what has been billed as the largest class action case outside of the United States.