The sad and frightening story from England World Cup winner that underlines the magnitude of rugby’s biggest problem

The story is at once frightening and moving and underlines the magnitude of rugby’s biggest problem.

In a desperately moving excerpt from his book, Unforgettable published in The Sunday Times, former England hooker Steve Thompson highlights the scale of the neurological issues affecting him which he claims are a result of repeated blows to the head during his rugby career.

He says that the trauma of his situation, dealing with a diagnosis of early-onset dementia, had led him to contemplate taking his own life. And he has a tale to illustrate just one of the many issues he now has to contend with.

READ MORE: Popular Wales international has dementia aged just 45

“The other day I was on the dog for being a pain,” writes England’s 2003 World Cup-winning hooker, who has early onset dementia. ‘Saxon! Saxon! ‘ I was saying. It wouldn’t even look at me. ‘Saxon!’

“It was making me angry now. And then I looked at my three-year-old. He was definitely looking at me now – and he was terrified. What the heck was going on?

“’You’re calling the dog Saxon,” my wife, Steph, told me. “’His name’s Stan. Saxon’s your son. ‘

“It was a proper ‘What was I thinking?’ moment. People try to console me – ‘Oh, I get my kids’ names mixed up all the time’. And I think, yes, but not with the dog. ”

The popular ex-front rower goes on to tell in heartbreaking terms about his difficulties in even remembering his wife’s name. The 43-year-old has previously said he has no memory of the World Cup final of 19 years ago which he played such an important part as Sir Clive Woodward’s side beat Australia.

In a hugely physical sport increasingly under the spotlight over brain injuries Thompson’s story is incredibly sad.

Woodward was asked to contribute a chapter to the book on Thompson the rugby player and man and he has spoken of his upset at his ex-player’s plight.

“It really saddens me that Steve wishes he had never been part of the tournament, so painful is the knowledge that he can’t remember any of it,” writes Woodward on MailOnline. He says he finds it ‘heartbreaking’ that Thompson has the problems associated with premature onset dementia.

“It’s hardly surprising that they describe rugby as‘ lethal ’,” says Woodward.

Thompson and others, including former Wales flanker Alix Popham, who has had the same devastating diagnosis, are bringing legal proceedings against the game’s authorities over what they contend is the failure to protect them from the risks caused by repeated concussions. You can read more on those issues here.

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