sport news Former England star Freddie Burns gives a grim warning on rugby's physical toll

While his former Premiership team-mates are playing more games than ever before, Freddie Burns is enjoying a quieter life on the pitch with Combe Down RFC. 

They play in the Dorset & Wiltshire North league and training is limited to two nights per week, before supper.

It is a far cry from the demanding surroundings of professional rugby but one thing is certain: Burns's body feels better than ever. The former Bath No 10 is waiting for his visa to arrive before he moves to Japan, and the time out has allowed him plenty of time to reflect.

Former Bath No 10 Freddie Burns is enjoying a quieter life on the pitch with Combe Down RFC

Former Bath No 10 Freddie Burns is enjoying a quieter life on the pitch with Combe Down RFC

He is waiting for his visa to arrive before he moves to Japan and he has been reflecting

He is waiting for his visa to arrive before he moves to Japan and he has been reflecting

'I feel refreshed,' says Burns. 'I've loved coming up to Combe Down on a Tuesday and Thursday evening. It's my old man's team. You've got boys who work all day, come up to train and have a laugh. I feel like one of the lads and I'm just trying not to be that t**t who's a professional!

'English rugby is one hell of a product but from a player welfare point of view, it's attritional. You're playing more and more games and you're smashing each other up in training. It's a tough old industry to be in.'

Burns has never been shy of expressing himself. On the pitch, coaches have tried to rein in his adventurous skill-set. Off the pitch, he has always spoken his mind and, in the current climate of midweek fixtures and pay cuts, he fears for rugby's physical toll.

'If we're not careful, rugby's going to become a three-year career,' says Burns. 'Year on year, it becomes more physical and more attritional. The number of games being played is huge. Money talks at the end of the day and Premiership Rugby, the money men, decided on this schedule.

'Compromise needed to happen during Covid but it seems like the only ones making that compromise are the players. They've been told, "I'll tell you what, we're going to pay you less money to play more games". They're putting their body through more and more strain. I've played with players who can't even cut their dinner because they've got nerve damage in their arm. I watched Bath versus Wasps last week and Wasps had four players injured in the first half an hour. The player welfare side of thing needs to be looked at. Do I think that's happening? Not really.'

Burns has always spoken his mind off the pitch and he said he fears for rugby's physical toll

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