‘Really sad’: All Blacks react to news of Carl Hayman’s diagnosis


All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree said his immediate reaction to learning Carl Hayman had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia was one of sadness.

Former All Blacks tighthead prop, who played the last of his 45 tests in the shock loss to France in the quarterfinal at the 2007 World Cup, has revealed to The Bounce he also has been diagnosed with probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Hayman is 41.

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Speaking from Rome, where the All Blacks are preparing to play Italy on Sunday morning, Plumtree was shocked to learn of Hayman’s condition.

“Really sad,” Plumtree said. “Carl, a 45 test All Black, has done a lot for New Zealand rugby. It is a really sad situation if he’s struggling with dementia at such an early age.

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“We have a lot of empathy for that. We know that he has been a pretty popular person in this environment. It’s not nice to hear those stories.”

Hayman, who now lives in Taranaki, represented the Highlanders and Otago in New Zealand before playing for Newcastle in England and Toulon in France until he retired from playing in 2015.

Although Plumtree was also brought-up in Taranaki, he said he was never involved with Hayman in a rugby capacity.

In December Hayman revealed he had been in touch with British-based lawyers about his medical condition following his retirement from the sport.

That followed the admission from former England hooker Steve Thompson that he had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and couldn’t remember playing in his team’s victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup final in Sydney.

Tighthead prop Carl Hayman in action for the All Blacks against South Africa in 2007.

Ross Setford/NZPA

Tighthead prop Carl Hayman in action for the All Blacks against South Africa in 2007.

Thompson and a group of retired players, which includes Hayman, are pursuing a legal case against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (England) and Welsh Rugby Union.

Plumtree, who also played in South Africa after leaving New Zealand, and has been coaching since 1997 said he was comfortable with how rugby had evolved in terms of recognising the need to reduce brain injuries.

“If you look at the laws, now, they really protect the head,” Plumtree stated. “The way that we coach, obviously the head is a protected area.”

The All Blacks coaches, said Plumtree, were continually trying to encourage athletes to have the “perfect technique”, whether it was taking the high ball, in defence or at the breakdown, to ensure the risk of a player suffering a concussion was minimised.

“We know that’s not good for our game, and we know we have to protect our players.

Carl Hayman and his partner Kiko Matthews have been flat out after purchasing Chaddy's Charters in New Plymouth earlier this year.

SIMON O’CONNOR/Stuff

Carl Hayman and his partner Kiko Matthews have been flat out after purchasing Chaddy’s Charters in New Plymouth earlier this year.

“And that’s whether it’s at training or whether it’s during a game. If anything happens out there on the field, it has to be an accident.

“Certainly, I hate head injuries.”

Plumtree reiterated he was satisfied the sport was on the “right path”, in terms of ensuring the welfare of players was a top priority.

“And if you look at the stats now, hopefully there is less of it (concussions). And I will go back to what I said before, I feel sorry for Carl and any other players that are affected in this regard.”

The All Blacks coaches reduce injuries by assessing how sore players are before preparing the training programmes.

All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree said managing the training schedule was a way to reduce the risk of head injuries.

Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

All Blacks assistant coach John Plumtree said managing the training schedule was a way to reduce the risk of head injuries.

That, in turn, meant their workload could be dialed back on the Monday and Tuesday after a game.

After taking Wednesday off, the players are involved in an intense session on Thursday but with caveats.

“The breakdown is contested, as what you would see in a normal game, and the tackle is not as contested,” Plumtree said. “We are minimising the risk, the whole time during the week.”

The need to perfect technique must be balanced with the realisation that players can’t bash each other. Contact is encouraged within a shortened space.

Plumtree said a tackler could approach from just 1m away, instead of running full-on from a distance of 5m. Players executing clean-outs also reduce their run-up, and train against a pad designed in the shape of an opposition jackler.

“So we know the collision is not as great, but the technique can still be perfect,” Plumtree said. “And it is the same with the breakdown.”

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Publish date : 2021-11-02 23:09:00

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