Luke Cowan-Dickie of Exeter Chiefs lies unconscious after taking a blow to the head during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final

Credit: Warren Little
/Getty Images Europe

Progressive Rugby, the players lobby group, have expressed concern regarding Luke Cowan-Dickie’s selection by the British and Irish Lions for the first game of their tour in South Africa, after Cowan-Dickie was "clearly knocked out" in last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership final playing for Exeter Chiefs.

According to Progressive Rugby, Cowan-Dickie lost consciousness making a tackle against Harlequins, with the England hooker treated on the field before being replaced.

Cowan-Dickie linked up with the Lions the following day before flying out to South Africa with the squad, and was named in Warren Gatland’s matchday squad on Thursday to play against the Sigma Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday. He was also pictured scrummaging and taking part in contact drills on Thursday, ahead of being selected on the Lions bench.

A Progressive Rugby spokesperson said: “Representing the British Lions is one of the game’s greatest honours, but player welfare must always remain the game’s number one priority.

“We have to question whether selecting a player who has suffered a significant brain injury just days beforehand is in that player’s best interests, and whether World Rugby’s current concussion protocols, which Progressive Rugby maintain are insufficient, have been robustly followed on this occasion.”

Progressive Rugby are described as "a diverse group of expert medics, academics, players and coaches committed to developing a safer, sustainable game for future generations of the rugby family." The group includes former Wales back-row Alix Popham and former England back-row James Haskell, who have spoken out in the past regarding rugby’s approach to concussion and head injuries.

Cowan-Dickie’s selection by the Lions was also criticised by former England and Lions scrum-half Kyran Bracken. "Luke is unconscious for over 20 seconds. Possibly 40-60 secs. How can he play the following week? I am absolutely disgusted that the powers that be allow this to happen. A stain on our great game," Bracken said.

Luke is unconscious for over 20 seconds. Possibly 40-60 secs. How can he play the following week? I am absolutely disgusted that the powers that be allow this to happen. A stain on our great game. @premrugby @EnglandRugby @WorldRugby pic.twitter.com/RtpTOjnqVK

— Kyran Bracken (@KyranBracken) July 2, 2021

Gatland addressed Cowan-Dickie’s condition during the team announcement, stating that the hooker had gone through return to play protocols.

Gatland said: “When I first asked him how he was, he said he had never had a knock like that before. So he has done all the return to play protocols and he is happy to take a part in training, He is another real competitor.”

Have the Lions done anything wrong?

Players can technically return to the field seven days after suffering a concussion, provided they have passed all of the return to play protocols and are symptom free. Gatland stated that is the case with Cowan-Dickie, and given the Lions’ fixture takes place seven days after the Premiership final, Cowan-Dickie is technically eligible to play.

The seven-day turnaround saw a number of players ruled out from playing in matches the following week during the Six Nations, including Wales’ Johnny Williams and Hallam Amos after the opening game against Ireland, with Wales’ next game against Scotland taking place six days later.