Is the game simply becoming too dangerous to play? That was the question that reporters were asking as they contemplated the many broken bodies in the wake of the Calcutta Cup. While the visiting team were beaten in every department, their efforts were undermined by injuries to several key players.
England’s Elliot Daly suffered the first head injury and three Scots followed him to the sidelines. Stuart Hogg departed midway through the first half. He was replaced by Mark Bennett who appeared to twist his knee and injure his ankle after just four minutes on the pitch. In the second half, both Tommy Seymour and Ryan Wilson followed Hogg into the medical room with head knocks.
It is unlikely that many parents who witnessed the injury-strewn Calcutta Cup enrolled their beloved boys or girls in the minis section of their local rugby club come yesterday morning. Rugby is a brutal, collision sport which is not for the faint-hearted but, given the new-found power of the players in the professional era, has it simply become too dangerous?
“It is a contact sport,” was Vern Cotter’s undeniable assessment. “That’s why the players play it, they enjoy the contact. At the moment, we have injuries coming from it. I will try to deal with what’s in place at the moment and get on as best as possible. Some days you have them and some days you have more of them.
“My biggest concern of the championship is to see how many players I’ll be able to put on the field the next week. In two away games we’ve had eight concussions.”
Cotter’s maths might be one out because, in addition to Hogg, Seymour and Wilson’s head injuries in London, four Scots suffered head knocks in Paris: John Barclay, John Hardie, Alex Dunbar and Fraser Brown, a total of seven in two Tests, which is more than enough.
Over and above the head injuries, three other Scotland players will have scans this week ahead of selection for the Italy match. Finn Russell and Huw Jones both suffered knee injuries, while Richie Gray has a problematic hamstring.
The irony among all of this is that Scotland were already missing injured players, including Alasdair Dickinson, WP Nel and Duncan Taylor. Skipper Greig Laidlaw was confined to a moon boot and the ITV studio in London, while Josh Strauss missed the action because he damaged a kidney against France.
Part of the problem was the physical mismatch between the two teams on the field and it was no great surprise that Scotland were hit hardest by the two teams with the biggest pool of players in world rugby, which translates into the biggest players on the field.